Friday, September 24, 1999

Muslims plan International Academy

Private school will be open to all faiths

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        UNION TOWNSHIP — Local Muslims plan to open the Tristate's first Islamic-based private school in Butler County by 2001, giving area parents a unique educational option.

        Work will begin on the $3.5 million International Academy of Cincinnati in January. It will be part of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati's campus off Plantation Road in fast-growing southeastern Butler County.

        The school, which will be open to students of all faiths, will emphasize foreign language instruction in Arabic, German, French and Spanish, said Mamdouh Abdallah, chairman of the academy's board.

        “It will be a school for any individual. This is the next step in our plan. We intended to add on a school from the beginning,” said Mr. Abdallah of the Tristate's largest Islamic facility, which opened in 1995 and sits on 19 acres off Interstate 75.

        The academy, which will offer classes in kindergarten through grade 8, will accommodate up to 240 students in a distinctive, 40,000-square-foot building.

        Tuition is projected at $5,000 to $6,000 per school year.

        “We plan to offer comparative religion courses beginning in the fourth grade that would

        study all religions,” said Mr. Abdallah, who is also president of American Industrial Inc. in Montgomery.

        Officials at the Ohio Department of Education said they think there is currently no other Islamic K-8 private school or high school operating in the state.

        Montessori-based preschool classes are also scheduled to be offered in the Islamic Center's Community Center beginning next fall, Mr. Abdallah said.

        The $6 million center's mosque, which features a gold dome and minaret, stands just west of Interstate 75, north of Cincinnati-Dayton Road, and is visible from the highway.

        The mosque has been a place of worship for many of the estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Muslims living in Greater Cincinnati.

        There are an estimated 1 billion Muslims worldwide.

        The single-story academy's architecture also will feature Islamic influences, including an expansive central courtyard with a fountain.

        The school's $3.5 million construction cost will be funded through private donations.

        “We intend to raise money from corporations and individuals,” Mr. Abdallah said.

        The school will be an unusual option in an area of the Tristate not known for private school choices.

        There are no Catholic elementary schools in southeastern Butler County, although the Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced Wednesday that it wants to build schools in the booming areas of Butler and Warren counties between Interstates 75 and 71.

        Gerald Foote, architect with P. Foote & Associates in Montgomery, designed the Islamic Center's mosque and is also creating the academy building.

        Mr. Foote said that, while the academy's exterior will be markedly different from typical public and private schools, the interior will be much the same with few, if any, Islamic-influenced flourishes.

        “There's not all that much difference you can do with a classroom. But the main entrance will have a two-story atrium lit by a skylight,” he said.

        There will be no worship areas within the school building. The nearby mosque will serve that religious purpose for any Islamic students, he said.


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