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The Importance of Community Engagement in the High School Facilities Process

In 2009, the community participated in the development of a comprehensive Master Facilities Plan. That plan resulted in the construction of nearly all new – and much needed – schools for our district. Left unaddressed in the 2009 plan, however, was the high school facility. Soon, our high school building will be 50 years old, and at some point, the age and design of a building begins to interfere with the education, technology and safety needs of today. We are to that point.

In the summer of 2015, the Mariemont Board of Education reviewed costs totaling almost a half million dollars for recent repairs the district has had to make at the high school facility; the Board also looked at the projected costs of repairs. In response to this information, the Board asked me to develop a multi-year facility community engagement process for the purpose of creating a master facility plan for Mariemont High School. This plan will guide decisions regarding needed repairs, upgrades and/or replacement of the high school facility.

The process officially began in the fall of 2015 with the start of the “assessment phase – part I” and continued over a nine-month period, culminating in June 2016. The purpose of this phase was to create an initial summary of high school facility strengths and weaknesses. Nearly 15 community members, Board members and school district administrators participated in this work. And what they found might not be surprising to many of you. They found that the size and layout of the high school make implementation of present-day and future curriculum needs and teaching techniques as outlined in Destination 2026 very challenging, if not impossible. And they found little to no flexibility for student and staff collaboration within our learning spaces. Security was an issue, due to the layout of the building. There are also many infrastructure needs at the high school – crucial elements like roofing, wiring and plumbing – that are raising more and more concerns and costing more and more money.

With these initial findings, the engagement process to develop a master plan now continues over the next two years, and there will be many opportunities for you to be involved and provide input. The entire process will be open and transparent. Just as it was in 2009, community input is critical to the success of this process. Earlier this month, Treasurer Tom Golinar and I hosted two school chats and answered questions about the facility process. We will be hosting more opportunities for dialogue in the future, and I encourage everyone to participate in those as well as attend events like the State of the Schools Address on January 18. After all, it is up to all of us to be involved in analyzing and assessing the future options for the high school.

Please check our website often, watch the Mariemont Minute and listen to the ConnectME podcast to stay informed of the many opportunities to provide input. We have a long way to go and I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

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Steven Estepp