UNION TOWNSHIP (CLERMONT COUNTY), Ohio -- Construction on West Clermont High School is progressing, and the school district is working to prepare students and teachers for the transition.
West Clermont will consolidate Amelia and Glen Este high schools into one school. The new building is expected to be under roof before Christmas, so interior work will take place throughout the winter months, said Scott Spicher, spokesman for West Clermont Local Schools.
The school will open in August for the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
The new 370,000-square-foot high school is part of a $100 million project that also includes an updated, consolidated middle school at the current Amelia High School and Amelia Middle School site. Glen Este High School and Glen Este Middle School will be closed, and Union Township will develop the property.
West Clermont High School is located at the corner of Clough Pike and Bach-Buxton Road in Union Township.
The building projects are being funded at no additional cost to taxpayers through a 30-year tax increment financing agreement between the school district and Union Township trustees.
Most teachers from the current Glen Este and Amelia schools likely will move over to the new consolidated schools, said Spicher, but a principal for the high school hasn't yet been named. The superintendent hopes to have that person approved by the March or April school board meeting, he said.
The district anticipates both internal and external candidates for the top leadership roles.
"It's going to be a wide-open search," Spicher said. "We want to make sure that, given what the high school is going to be and what a game changer it is going to be for this community and how education is done here in Clermont County, we want to do our due diligence in making sure we have the best possible person to lead that building."
The high school also will be a gathering place for the Clermont County community, as well as the students. The community will have access to the school's eight-lane pool, a gym, an auditorium and meeting rooms when not in use by the students and -- through a partnership with Mercy Health -- a Mercy Healthplex will be attached to the high school that will have physician access and exercise facilities for members of the community, Spicher said.
To begin to unite Glen Este and Amelia middle and high schools, the district has been bringing students together for various events and have launched "transition teams." The transition teams, one comprising students and one comprising teachers from both Glen Este and Amelia, have been given the chance to provide input for their new consolidated school.
Students have been able to meet with Superintendent Keith Kline to offer suggestions such as what classes they would like to have and the schedule of the school day, while also learning from the district about what decisions have been made and why. The goal is to help students feel involved with the creation of their new school and to also keep any inaccurate rumors from spreading.
"It helps keep the line of communication open so that everyone is involved and it is as transparent as it can be," Spicher said.
Courtney Heikenfeld, an English teacher at Amelia High School and a member of the teachers' transition team, said the group has met with the administration to provide ideas and act as the liaison between all of the teachers and the district.
"Originally, we talked a lot about the big picture of the school -- what we want it to look like five years from now from the community standpoint from parents, teachers and students," Heikenfeld said. "Recently, because of the timing of it, we have been working on the courses and what will be offered in terms of curriculum because we have to get the kids registered."
West Clermont High School students will be able to register for classes at Eastgate Mall -- since the new high school won't be complete -- on Jan. 26, Spicher said.
The teachers also serve on different sub-committees addressing specific issues for the new high school. Heikenfeld is on the school pride and culture committee, which has been studying what neighboring schools have done to create a sense of pride within the school and community.
"We are focusing on how to honor the traditions of both schools while also starting new traditions as a new school," she said.
May 19 will be a "farewell weekend" for Glen Este and Amelia high schools and middle schools, Spicher said. It will include activities on both campuses for students, alumni and the community to come and say goodbye.