60-year-old Mason school reborn after $33 million in renovations

The $33 million renovations at Mason Middle School, which were unveiled to the public recently, were made possible by key financial decisions decades ago, said school officials.

The changes are striking.

More classroom space, brighter lighting, colorful walls, group learning areas, enhanced building security systems, modernized classroom labs and a redesigned lunch area allowing students both more nutritional choices and seating options.

Toss in a new roof and heating, air conditioning and ventilation system and what was once one of the Warren County school system’s oldest buildings, the school is now a state-of-the-art learning center for 1,600 seventh- and eighth-graders in the 11,000-student school system.

“The really incredible thing about this school is that decisions our administration and (school) board made 20 years ago” — in entering the application process of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) and other financial moves and “we were debt-free from day one without ever having to go to taxpayers for a bond issue,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Mason Schools.

The OFCC financing covered 80 percent of the $33 million renovation costs.

“And now today, our students and taxpayers are getting the benefit of this incredible space that is 60 years old, and we are now ready for the next 50 years,” said Carson.

Mason Schools has the largest enrollment of any Warren County school system and is a consistent top academic performer not only among Southwest Ohio districts but also among all schools statewide.

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Mason Middle School science teacher Liz Mills has taught there for 14 years, but she has never had a classroom such as she does now.

Mills’ classroom is re-wired with an interactive whiteboard allowing students to follow along during lessons on laptop computers. Lab space is expanded, and an old closet has been expanded into a learning pod area where students can separate for group project work.

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Just outside her classroom in the hallway is another alternative learning space, featuring cushioned lounge chairs where students can also work together.

“The updates and renovations that have happened here are beautiful, everything is so bright and welcoming and inviting … it’s amazing,” said Mills.

The impact on the students this school year is profound, she said.

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“I think they feel respected, and they realize their education is of high value here at Mason Schools and that they are really cared for in their learning environment,” she said.

School Principal Lauren Gentene said she wasn’t surprised by the wide-eyed reactions at the school’s recent public unveiling, which include tours of the building.

“For people who have been in the building before renovation, it is a totally different space and our students and our staff are so energized,” said Gentene.

“The aesthetic has changed learning and collaboration and the energy,” she said.

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