UNION TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Clermont County’s newest school will begin to take shape this April and officials are confident it will mean positive changes for the community.
The planned 370,000-square-foot high school that will combine Glen Este High School and Amelia High School is scheduled to “go vertical” in mid-April, said West Clermont Local School District Superintendent Keith Kline.
Turner Construction Co. is now working to install the footers and foundation on the site, he said, which is on the corner of Clough Pike and Bach Buxton Road in Union Township. The high school, which is being built to accommodate 2,500 students, is scheduled to be under roof in November and open in the fall of 2017.
The new high school is part of a $100 million project that includes an updated middle school, as well, and it’s at no additional cost to taxpayers because of a 30-year Tax Increment Financing (or TIF) agreement the school district brokered with Union Township trustees last year.
As part of the TIF, which is an economic development mechanism available to local governments in Ohio to finance public infrastructure improvements, the school district should receive $30 million as a rebate from the project, said Tammy Brinkman, president of the West Clermont Local School District Board of Education. That money likely will go toward renovating or adding new buildings to the elementary schools in the district.
According to the plan, West Clermont Local School District will close both Glen Este High School and Glen Este Middle School so that the property can be developed by Union Township, Kline said. The Amelia High School and middle school campus will be remodeled to become West Clermont Middle School, which also is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.
Union Township will buy the land Glen Este sits on for $1, said John McGraw, Union Township trustee, and market it for development.
McGraw said $250 million is a rough number of how much development could come to the area in the way of stores, restaurants and office space as a result of the deal.
“Since this agreement was signed, our development in the past year has skyrocketed,” he said. “I’m sure we’re leading the region in new development, short of maybe the Banks projects or Liberty Center.”
McGraw said that, prior to the TIF agreement, new developers had shied away from coming to the area because of issues with the schools.
“For whatever reason, this area has not supported a new school levy and it’s been very difficult to get funding for new schools,” he said. “That drastically reduced the level of service our schools were able to provide and, consequently, people were moving out of the area.”
Brinkman said this deal has been needed for many years.
“There has always been this great wall between the two sides of the community and, because of that, you’ve had the perception that one education is better than the other and housing on one side is better than the other and opportunities on one side are better than the other,” she said. “And, when we’ve tried to pass levies for additional buildings or opportunities to provide for these children, it’s been ugly. Something’s been brewing for years that we needed to do something different.”
In the past, Brinkman said, the school board consisted of an older generation who believed that because the district had always been divided into two different sides, it should be kept that way. Now, however, she said the school board is a younger composition willing to look outside the box to provide what’s best for the community.
The new high school will feature a gym, an eight-lane pool, a theater, a bank, a walking track and a health center sponsored by Mercy Health, which will include physician access to members of the community.
Community members will be able to gain entry to the new features of the high school through a separate entrance.
“We’re hoping it will become a community center,” Brinkman said.
Kline said the response to the proposed high school has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think residents have seen that we’ve come up with a unique way to build a facility for this district without having to go back to the ballot,” he said. “In addition to that, I think they’re pleased to see that we’re working with governmental agencies to make this more than just a high school, to make it a facility the community can use.”
McGraw said it will be one of the premier high schools in the region once it opens.
“We’re going from a situation where people were running away because of the schools to a situation where people are going to run to us because of the schools,” he said.