Saturday, October 9, 2004

Schools cope with crowds

Rising population cramps space

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

HAMILTON TWP. - Principal Melody Goodwin is getting used to having her teachers in two locations.

Little Miami enrollment

1999: 2,621
2000: 2,707
2001: 2,827
2002: 3,032
2003: 3,201
2004: 3,413

For the second time in five years, Hamilton-Maineville Elementary School's kindergarten classes have moved to a church basement as enrollment continues to grow along with booming southern Warren County.

Of the nearly 240 new students who moved into the 98-square-mile Little Miami School District, 100 enrolled in Goodwin's school. Moving the kindergarten classes to Grace Community Presbyterian Church along U.S. 22/Ohio 3 has eased the crowding - for this year.

"We do not have anyone (teachers) traveling (between classrooms) this year but we do have a half-day art teacher using the cafeteria,'' Goodwin said. "The big challenge will be next year.''

Based on this year's enrollment and projected growth, Goodwin said, there is a strong possibility she will need five more teachers for the 2005-06 school year.

If that happens, art and music teachers who now have their own classrooms could lose them and have to move from classroom to classroom, school officials say. The school's computer lab and gifted-education room may also have to be converted to regular classrooms.

Similar scenarios are possible at the district's other two elementary schools, intermediate-junior high complex and high school, said Superintendent Dan Bennett.

"The other schools are getting crowded as well,'' Bennett said. "There are over 6,000 housing starts planned in the district. We know growth is coming and we're trying to prepare.

The difficulty is projecting when people move in and the age of the children.''

As an example of the growth, Bennett said Little Miami High School's Class of 2004 had 180 students. There are 168 kindergarten children just at Hamilton-Maineville Elementary.

That's why the district is renting church space at a cost of $12,000 per year, Bennett said. The district also spent $46,000 getting the space ready for the students, Bennett said.

If a November bond issue passes, it will provide $37 million to build a new junior high and elementary school along with an addition to Little Miami High School.

But those classrooms wouldn't be ready until 2007.

Until that happens Goodwin is using two large basement rooms with temporary dividers to separate each into two classrooms for the four morning and four afternoon kindergarten classes.

It is the second time Sue Cormany is teaching in a church basement. In 1999, five kindergarten classes were held in Maineville United Methodist Church.

Unlike the 1999 move, kindergarten classes are likely to remain in the church for at least three years, Bennett said.

Cormany said the teachers are adapting well, but miss the bathrooms and sinks they had in their classrooms, along with being able to walk down the hall to talk to the other teachers.

But the kids don't mind being in the church.

Five-year-old Anna Geohegan said she's glad she's not at the same school as her 7-year-old brother Kevin.

"I'd rather be here because my brother always bothers me,'' Anna explained.

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