By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON TWP. - At first, Ryan Richardson was suspicious of his new classroom.
The fourth-grader from Hamilton-Maineville Elementary recalls starting classes at the Little Miami school and warily eyeing the four nondescript, trailer-like structures that popped up on the elementary playground during the summer.
But after a couple of days of classes in the new, modular classrooms, 9-year-old Ryan was sold.
"At first, I thought it would be small. But it turned out to be big inside. It's pretty neat," he said while standing outside his new classroom.
The modular classrooms are also pretty necessary in light of Little Miami's growing student population, which has forced the Warren County school system to install the temporary classrooms for the first time.
Besides Hamilton-Maineville's four units, which hold eight classrooms, Butlerville Elementary also has one modular unit to handle more students than its main school buildings can handle.
"Our immediate challenge is growth and how it's impacting our classroom size," said Little Miami superintendent Daniel Bennett.
Little Miami's enrollment is 3,227 - up from 2,186 in 1993. The district has been adding more than 200 students a year recently, said Bennett, who projects enrollment of 5,000 within a decade.
Warren County is the second-fastest growing county in Ohio. And Hamilton Township, a large part of the Little Miami school district, had more building permits issued for single-family homes from 1997 to 2002 - 2,732 permits - than any other Warren County township.
Melody Goodwin, principal of Hamilton-Maineville, said that the main school building - built in 1937 - is too small after the elementary's enrollment increased to 630 from last year's 536 students.
"Modular classrooms are nice if they are done right, and these are. They have air conditioning, which the main building does not have, and the classrooms in the modular are actually bigger than inside the school," said Goodwin.
Hamilton-Maineville fourth-grade teacher Debbie Contner has been teaching for 25 years, but this is her first school year in a modular.
"Once we saw them on the inside, we didn't mind using them. The air conditioning is a big plus, and the carpeting is nice because the kids can sit on the floor," Contner said.
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