Wednesday, October 29, 2003

East End school step closer

Residents cheer long-awaited groundbreaking

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] A digital rendering shows the main entrance to East End Community School.
EAST END - A chorus of youngsters from two East End schools sang "Thank you" to a crowd of residents, parents and civic leaders Tuesday as officials broke ground on a new school for Cincinnati's East End, Columbia Tusculum and Linwood neighborhoods.

The community school is only the second to be built for Cincinnati Public Schools in more than two decades. It is the first - for as long as school officials can recall - that will house preschool through 12th-grade students.

When completed in fall 2005, it will replace Linwood Fundamental Academy, a magnet K-6 school, and McKinley Elementary, a 127-year-old K-8 school.

The new school will be the city's first built on stilts. Its location, on city-owned soccer fields at Stanley and Kellogg Avenues, is a flood plain. It's designed to make the most of river views.

Half of the school will be a community learning center - with a YMCA branch, health clinic, police substation, library and meeting and performance spaces.

Half will contain 32 classrooms on two levels.

Parents and community members, who began calling for a new school about 10 years ago, sought one that would include a junior and senior high school in hopes that more students from the heavily Appalachian neighborhood would attend and graduate from high school, said Linwood Principal Jay Parks.

The newly combined school's first students will come from racially mixed McKinley and Linwood.

Ultimately, the new East End Community School will draw up to 660 children as far west as downtown, Parks said.

McKinley has long needed to be replaced, several parents said. The school was built in 1876 and expanded in 1919. It is the oldest operating elementary school in Ohio, said Principal Melody Dacey.

McKinley has exposed radiators lining walls and stairwells at shoulder level. Last week, a child was burned from a radiator.

Large windows on stair landings drop open without warning. And exposed wiring and duct-tape-patched pipes link classrooms that are too hot or too cold, Dacey said.

Linwood, built in 1929, is about average age for Cincinnati schools.

The principal's office was a "Civil Defense" closet where the school stored water and foodstuffs in case of a nuclear war, Parks said. "I have a true open-door policy," he joked: "If I close my door, I have no air."

Parents at the groundbreaking said they hold fond memories of the old schools, but are eagerly awaiting the new one.

"We've been promised new schools all of our lives," said Betty Zink, who has lived near the site of the new school for 32 years, and whose six children, ages 9 to 35, have attended both schools.

"I've cried over this day,'' she said. "I plan to steal me some dirt (from the groundbreaking) and put it in a bottle."


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