By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MASON - Nobody has to tell Mason school parent Alaina Peebles that this Warren County school system could soon overflow with students.
"Every time I'd pick up my kids last year, I could see how crowded the classes were," Peebles said during a public forum Thursday evening at Mason High School. The forum was held to gauge residents' opinions on how the district should go about expanding its facilities.
Almost 150 residents came to the first of the two public forums - the second is scheduled 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the same location - to help Mason school districts determine what priorities they should consider while building a new school and reconfiguring grades to better accommodate an influx of new, younger students.
"We continue to add more than 650 students per year and have done so for six consecutive years," said Superintendent Kevin Bright. "Our early childhood center is a vintage 1911 building. We need more space."
The public forums are also designed to educate residents about the district's explosive growth - 8,669 students now and projected to top 11,200 in five years - and the need for a new bond issue, which is planned for the March ballot.
The final decision on a new bond issue, which district officials say will likely not increase property taxes but rather require voters to renew tax millage already being collected, will be made by the Mason school board by Dec. 18.
District officials told the audience that a new school must be open by 2006 to accommodate students and a bond issue is necessary to achieve that.
Mason resident Pam Burket said, "I'd probably be in favor of it, but I appreciate being asked my opinion first."
The district's presentation, including a questionnaire, can be viewed on the Mason Schools Web site, beginning Monday.
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