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Rock Hill SD breaks ground for schools

Pedro – With only minor adjustments needed on the final design plans for the Rock Hill school project, school officials were confident enough to announce the start of construction Monday at the official ground-breaking ceremony.

Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Pedro – With only minor adjustments needed on the final design plans for the Rock Hill school project, school officials were confident enough to announce the start of construction Monday at the official ground-breaking ceremony.

The project, which will give Rock Hill schoolchildren two new schools – a new high school and consolidated elementary – and renovate the current high school building into a middle school, is partially funded through the community.

Area residents approved a 4.28-mill property tax levy in May 1998 to contribute about $3.8 million to this more than $40 million project, said Lloyd Evans, superintendent.

"We are very excited to start the construction of the new buildings," he said. "The buildings will be state of the art as far as technology is concerned. Every room will have at least four computer stations. We’re excited about the opportunities these buildings will offer our students."

A request for construction bids has already been advertised, and more will follow this month, Evans added.

"Once we receive the bids, we will review them," he said. "We will want to award the contracts as soon as possible. We’d like to see construction begin as early as February, if the weather permits."

If all goes well, the new schools might be ready to house students as soon as the 2001-2002 school year.

That would be just fine for Harold Duvendeck, a Rock Hill High school freshman.

"I want to attend the new high school," Duvendeck said. "It’s really exciting. It’s going to be something new and it’s going to be more up to date."

Technological enhancements and improved teaching facilities will improve the educational atmosphere at Rock Hill, Duvendeck added.

"Hopefully, there’ll be things we can learn with like new computers and new textbooks that are more helpful than the ones here," he said. "We’ll also have a new football field to help our team in sports and the teachers will be happy with the new schools because they won’t have to deal with the stuff they have to deal with now.

"It’ll be an experience."

Even the younger schoolchildren realized the significance of the ceremony Monday as they sat in the high school gymnasium during the celebration.

"It’s about these schools," first-grader Zach Johnson said.

And new schools are a good thing, his friend Stephen Adkins added.

"The other school’s old and I don’t want to go to the old school," Stephen said. "I want to go to the new school. I want to switch schools."

And both students should be able to change elementary schools before moving on to the middle school. Questions about available land will not hold up the construction of the elementary school project.

The new consolidated building will begin construction at the same time as the high school. Concerns were raised in June that the current site was not large enough to build the proposed elementary school, so board members began negotiating a land swap agreement with the Wayne National Forest.

Forest representatives recently announced they agreed to the sell of the 37.75 acres adjacent to the construction site located on County Road 26.

"The decision was made to proceed with the land exchange," said Rick Jones, Ironton Ranger District realty specialist. "They paid fair market value for the land and we will buy land similar in condition that adjoins forest land to replace it."

The sale of the land would have come sooner if not for the paperwork involved with the transfer of government property, Jones added.

"The forest is very interested in rural development of a county," he said. "The development of a new school is always in the public’s interest and we were glad to be a part of it."

Not only will the land exchange give the district more room for the building project, it also provides needed infrastructure, Evans added.

Some advantages of the land acquisition include a more level site for construction, expanded playground opportunities, a wooded area to develop trails and a nature study curriculum, room for future expansion and a reduction of site preparation costs.

A graduate of the Rock Hill High School Class of 1970, Bob Blankenship tried to picture the new school as state and local officials dug into the dirt at the ground-breaking.

"It’s going to be different – the set up," Blankenship said. "They’re going to have everything in one area. But the school plans are really nice. It’s going to be a real nice school."

Newly elected to serve on the Rock Hill Board of Education, Carl Large looks forward to seeing the new schools built.

"I think it’s good it has gotten to this point," Large said. "I’d like it to get started and for us to make progress toward completion."

This was not the first ground-breaking ceremony state Rep. Bill Ogg has attended, and he hopes it’s not the last.

"I think South Point will get theirs, it may take one more time on the ballot," Ogg said. "The City of Ironton, the City of Portsmouth and Wheelersburg – those will be the only ones left. Everyone else in my district will have new schools."

Although the Ohio School Building Assistance funds are a long way from being a cure-all for the state’s educational equity woes, the program is a healthy step in the right direction, Ogg said.

"I’m glad to see another one get started, but I still think funding is the No. 1 thing," he said. "The facilities are nice, but I still think we need to address and settle the school funding formula problems."

Representing the Lawrence County Board of Commission, Paul Herrell smiled proudly as he had his picture taken shoveling dirt at the site.

"It’s well on the way and I’m glad to see it," Herrell said. "Education at this day and time is the answer. And I hope to attend other ground-breakings soon."