Johnson Elementary Set for a Make over

Isabelle Bryant, Staff Writer

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In 1922, the first insulin treatment for diabetes was successful, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated, and the first issue of Readers Digest was published. Additionally, in 1922 Johnson Elementary was built. Johnson has seen many changes, although parts of the original building are still intact and being used. The school was built in a Californian style, with an open campus. Students may have to trek outside from one building to another to get to classes in other buildings, or to the cafeteria every day. After almost 100 years, Johnson Elementary is long overdue for a makeover.

The long wait is over as Johnson Elementary is the last school in the district to get rehabilitated. Mr. Jerry Wissman, Director of Operations for the school district, said, “We are waiting on final approval to begin the project from the Kentucky Department of Education. We hope to receive that approval later this month, so we can start in mid to late October.” But getting to this point took much effort and had many bumps in the road.

The current cost estimate for the project is around $21,500,000. In order to start the project, the district had to be able to show that they have access to all of the funds necessary. The district had about two-thirds of the funding required, but it was in need of finding a way to gain that last third. They looked to the government for this funding. At first, they received this funding from the government, in the amount of $10,887,400. However, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) went through drastic budget cuts, and the project was no longer on the list to receive a portion of finances. Many people helped to get back aid from the government for Johnson Elementary. Eventually, it received funding again through a series of negotiations in The Senate and The House. “There are so many people we can thank from our community, our local state senator (Wil Schroder) and representative (Joe Fischer), and the members of the state legislature that voted for us to have the final 1/3 of the funding,” said Mr. Wissman.

Most of the funds will be coming from local sources, however, the government included a payment of $7,612,400 to the district for the project. Mr. Wissman said, “The majority of this funding will be in the form of a ‘Bond Sale’ which is similar to a mortgage loan that families would take out to purchase a home.” They will be paying back this amount over the next 20 years.

Mrs. Ashley Dikeos, Principal of Johnson Elementary, said, “I was initially ecstatic! I was excited for a new building, ONE building that my students will be in.” The ideal date to start is mid to late October, but many have concerns as to the traffic during the project in the area. Where will the students be taught while the building is being worked on, and the overall safety of students? Mrs. Dikeos said that she too, is concerned about all of this, she said, “As a district I know Fort Thomas has been through this many times already, and I know they are prepared and ready to help Johnson through this process!”

The project has two phases, the first being the library and gymnasium buildings. During this time, around one to one and half years, students and teachers in these buildings will be placed in “learning cottages”. Once phase one is completed, the same will be done for the teachers and students in the Cliffview building, and the students previously in the learning cottages will be placed in the new building. Johnson Elementary should be finished by the summer of 2021.

This is something that the district has been waiting on for a while. The Johnson renovation project has been in the talks for a while now, and it is just days away from beginning. There were bumps in the road, but that has not stopped the district from reaching their end goal.

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