Friday, March 24, 2000

Students enjoy the attention




BY JAMES PILCHER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Nick Brinker's after-school drama class came in handy Thursday during Vice President Al Gore's talk to about 90 Sands Montessori students, teachers and administrators at the West End school.

        The sixth-grader winced when Mr. Gore said some overcrowded schools have to serve lunch at 9:30 a.m. because their cafeterias are too small to handle a large crowd.

        When the vice president singled him out for his reaction, Nick quipped, “Well, I'm not a morning person.”

        Nick later said that he was used to being on the spot from his drama class.

        “He seemed like just another guy,” Nick said of Mr. Gore. “I'm glad he came.”

        Before speaking, Mr. Gore toured the building, and later made reference in his speech to missing windows, peeling paint and the closure of the third-floor bathroom.

        Cincinnati Public School administrators recommended in November that the 88-year-old building be closed and the Montessori program be moved. To bring the four-story, brick facility up to code would require $6.5 million in renovations, said CPS spokeswoman Jan Leslie.

        As the crowded library emptied, a group of four mothers good-naturedly debated the issue. One of them, Jenny French, asked how Congress would fund a bill that would cover up to $24.9 billion in interest on bonds issued to build or renovate schools.

        “I think they should put the money back in our pockets,” said Mrs. French of Clifton, who has three kids at Sands with another due to enroll in preschool this fall. “We would then sink the money into this school, and this place is worth it.”

        Jill Bohl, mother of a third-grader and a kindergartner, disagreed, saying she was glad to hear Mr. Gore pledge his support to the bill and address the issue of school infrastructure.

        “Even if we got a new tax cut, we're not going to come up with $10 million for another school,” Mrs. Bohl said.

        As for the students, many said the excitement over the afternoon visit built all morning, when they were taking the citizenship portion of the Ohio Proficiency Test.

        But sixth-grader Ashley Tribble of Kennedy Heights agreed with her classmate Nick that the visit was worth the hoopla.

        “It's not often you get a government official visiting one of the Cincinnati schools, much less our school,” Ashley said. “And it's not often you get to see a vice president up close.”

       



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