By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor
After eight years, Cincinnati Public Schools’ plan for a $1.1 billion project meant to provide new or renovated buildings for every child in the city is nearing completion.
Original plans called for 35 new schools, 24 of them on current school sites and 11 in new locations, with 32 others to be renovated. The plan also recommended adjusting the building stock from 80 down to 66 buildings.
As enrollment fell faster than expected, the plan changed several times. Another 15 schools were cut, 23 percent of the project, but CPS’s budget has grown by about $173 million. The project is also behind schedule and is now due to finish in late 2014 instead of 2013. It has encountered a lot of hurdles along the way. Site-location issues, minority inclusion issues, revisions or even increases in the cost of construction materials after Hurricane Katrina have contributed to the delays and have swallowed a lot of money that could have been saved.
And where is all this money needed to finance CPS’s “Decade of Renaissance” coming from?
Voters approved $480 million in May 2003. Another $203 million came from the state of Ohio and $470 million from other local sources, such as interest earnings, private donations or revenue from the Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park sales tax. And the price tag may still grow. The district now plans to use revenue from a Nov. 8 levy – if it passes – to finish renovating three schools that were in the original plan. District property owners will be paying off the project for another 18 years after it is finished.
But even with the bumps, the community is finally getting the quality buildings that it deserves. Once the project is finished, students will be educated in 51 new or renovated state-of-the-art buildings that are technology-rich and environmentally friendly. No more drafty windows and leaky roofs. Many of the new buildings are home to community learning centers, athletic events and health clinics. Some schools have stadiums for the first time. By the end of 2011, 41 new or renovated schools will be finished.