Miserable no more: Middletown Catholic school gym gets central air

Second-grade students, with Marco Kimener jumping, run in the gymnasium at St. John XXIII Catholic Elementary School in Middletown that has a newly installed air conditioning system for the start of the school year. The former Fenwick High School gymnasium has not had air conditioning since it was built in the early 1960s. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Second-grade students, with Marco Kimener jumping, run in the gymnasium at St. John XXIII Catholic Elementary School in Middletown that has a newly installed air conditioning system for the start of the school year. The former Fenwick High School gymnasium has not had air conditioning since it was built in the early 1960s. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The biggest change this school year at Middletown’s St. John XXIII Catholic School can’t be seen, but it is being felt by everyone.

For the first time the gymnasium, which includes the iconic basketball court where former Bishop Fenwick High School sports teams played for decades, has air conditioning.

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Fenwick, which opened on the 17-acre site off of Manchester Road in 1965, moved to a new campus on the city’s eastern, Warren County border in 2004.

St. John XXIII expanded into the former high school but while classrooms have had air conditioning, the gym — and players, fans and physical education students using the facility — did without until this school year.

“You could watch people melt right before your eyes. It was just miserable,” said St. John XXIII Principal Dawn Pickerill.

“The new air conditioning means everyone, including our gym classes, can be in there in comfort,” said Pickerill.

And it also means a new source of income for the school, which enrolls 409 students in pre-school through eighth grades, she said.

The school can now rent out the gym to non-school, youth and adult sports teams.

St. John XXIII was created in 1972 as a combined entity to serve all students in the area who were attending the local Catholics Schools of Holy Trinty, St. John’s and St. Mary’s.

While the gym holds many memories for Fenwick and St. John XXIII graduates, nobody is nostalgic about the pre-air conditioning days, said school parent Cari Hellmann.

Hellmann has had two children graduate from St. John XXIII and currently two others are enrolled in the school, which is part of the Cincinnati Archdiocese school system.

Her children are in the school band and choir, both of which practice and perform in the gym.

“When we would get all those bodies in the gym it would get hot,” she said. “Having the air conditioning will be a blessing and now we can enjoy the music and it will be very comfortable for the spectators.”

“It’s a great addition and it is upgrading and uplifting for the school,” said Hellmann.

Pickerill said the school has also added stage lights better illuminate school theatrical productions.

“Facility wise we are doing things here in leaps and bounds,” she said.

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