Saturday, April 01, 2000

Walnut Hills expands

School dedicates new wing today

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Alumni raised more than $9 million for the new Arts and Science Center.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        With a teaspoon, Laverne C. Maurant took a drop of water with a tiny tadpole suspended within and placed it on a glass slide, before each student slipped the slide under a microscope.

        “I want you to observe the increase in growth since the last time we looked, especially the tail,” Ms. Maurant told her ninth-grade biology class at Walnut Hills High School.

        While the microscopes were hardly new, the classroom was, spacious and airy, with plenty of light, the better to illuminate the growth of a tadpole's tail under a microscope.

        Ms. Maurant's classroom, where she teaches biology, zoology and geology, is one of 30 in the new, 59,000-square-foot Arts and Science Center that opened to students and faculty in October and will be dedicated at 2 p.m. today.

        “I like the new labs, compared with the old labs,” said freshman Lavender Walther, 15, as she peered through her microscope. “In the other building, biology rooms were just like English classrooms.”

        The new wing, constructed in the same Federalist style as the current building, blends almost seamlessly into the old, but with more distinctive appointments.

        A sculpture pavilion is at one end, but the new wing's centerpiece is a scientific courtyard, an outdoor lab that will be used to study ecosystems and will become functional in May.

        The new wing was a $10 million project directed by the Walnut Hills High School Alumni Foundation, which raised more than $9 million for it. Another $2 million will be raised for an endowment.

        The college preparatory high school has 1,950 students in grades seven through 12, and scored highest among Cincinnati high schools last year in the state's 12th Grade Proficiency Test. About 95 percent of its graduates go on to college.

        While today's dedication is designed to showcase the wing to alumni — U.S. Rep. Rob Portman gives the keynote address — the true endorsement of the building comes from the those who use it. Students say the new wing is well-lit, spacious, conducive to learning, graffiti-free, more relaxed and less hurried, especially in the labs.

        “The labs are excellent, they're updated, there's more space,” said Evan Parker, 17, a senior.

        “It lets us get away, where you don't feel so cramped,” said Janee Ward, 17, a senior.

        “You shared lab space before and you just didn't have enough time to finish anything,” Evan said. “That's the No. 1 plus for me.”

        “People finally feel responsible for the way it looks,” said Jacob Warm, 17, a junior. “There's a whole new respect.”

        Joshua Hardin, 18, a senior, led a discussion group in the forum, a lounge area intended as an open classroom.

        “It's just so much more advanced,” Joshua said. “Being in a better environment always helps.”

        Deborah Heldman, executive director of the Alumni Foundation, said the alumni pitched in after the defeat of a 1993 school levy that would have included funds for a new building at the high school. The foundation represents about 16,000 alumni.

        “We just wanted to give something back,” Ms. Heldman said.

        Ms. Maurant has taught at Walnut Hills since 1981. She is enthusiastic about her new environment, but also appreciated the granite and marble of the traditional school. After all, she said, she also teaches geology.

        “But this has the room and the beauty,” she said.


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