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Pointing toward completion

SOUTH POINT — On Friday wherever you looked at South Point Elementary there were mountains of unopened boxes balanced against stacks after stacks of small-sized royal blue chairs, all waiting to be put in place.

It meant a weekend of intense unpacking and sorting for staff to meet the upcoming opening school deadline on Wednesday.

But those hours pale when put next to the years it took to get the school, in fact, every school, in the South Point District into existence.

There will be two new elementary buildings for the district when the school year starts in days. Burlington Elementary and South Point Elementary will each have 440 students taking classes in the similarly designed buildings that carry a combined price tag of $16 million.

Each class will offer four computers with 25 more units in the communal lab. There are music rooms and a modified stage in the round at each building.

Tour guide Ken Cook, superintendent of the district, checked off the innovations the schools now boast.

“There is wireless in all our buildings now. Smart boards in all. Laptops for the high school and middle school,” he said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find any building in the state with that kind of technology. We have a big investment, but that’s the future.”

The opening of these two buildings concludes a fierce campaign that started in 1999 to build new schools for the district.

Supporters met constant defeat at the polls, starting with the November election in that year where the issue to institute a tax levy met with a turndown by only 10 percent.

That levy would have brought in a local match of $7.1 million to get $23 million from the state for building projects.

Second and third tries within the next year also were shot down by voters, costing the district those millions, which were sent to another district in the state.

However, in the March 2004 election, the levy finally passed by a seven percent margin. What advocates called a concerted effort to educate the public, plus the promise to keep a building at Burlington, were cited as among the reasons for the turnaround.

That bond issue will raise $7.7 million in property taxes for about the next three decades with an additional $30.8 million coming from the Ohio School Facilities Commission to pay for four new schools in the district.

New South Point Middle and High schools opened their doors in the fall of 2007 and now the last two will by mid-week.

Overseeing the construction of all four has been Cook, who has had his share of battles, from critics of the Project Labor Agreements he signed off on to build the elementaries to angry parents protesting busing.

In the final days to show time Cook walks through South Point with cell phone glued to his ear, ironing out last minutes details. What’s it like to face the end of five years of construction work?

Cook has a succinct reply: “Great.”