In March of 2018, Fort Thomas Independent Schools received the needed funding from the state to start the reconstruction project on Johnson Elementary School.
The Kentucky legislature awarded $7.6 million for the project but also granted an extension that would allow the district to borrow an additional $5.5 million. The construction will start on March 29th, 2019.
Many students at Highlands have fond memories of the building and are sad to see the changes.
Senior Ellie Beerman said, “Seeing the place that you spent a lot of time in and establishing your first real friendships is always hard to watch go. Just like your childhood home would be.”
However, the students also realize that it is time for the building to be redone.
Senior Madison Kaufman said, “I am sad about the school changing, but it definitely needs changes and to be redone for the future safety of others.”
With the construction starting after spring break, the students will need a new location until the construction is complete. This problem was solved with the idea of “Johnson Valley.”
The elementary schoolers and teachers will be moving their trailers to Highlands High School and placing them in front of the Field House.
However, with all of the added traffic, the high school will be starting and ending 15 minutes later as well as having a couple of other changes.
Principal Matthew Bertasso said, “Since the Johnson students will be in the field house, we won’t be able to use it during the school day anymore, but we will still be able to use it for evening activities. Besides that, most of it is just time changes and traffic issues. Just a little different pace from normal.”
The estimated time frame will be around 15 months and the students and faculty will be ready to move back into the new building the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
This announcement was made before Winter Break in 2018 and will be an adjustment for both students and teachers.
When asked about the change in pace for the students, Ashley Dikeos principal at Johnson Elementary said, “They [the students] have been very excited about the upcoming move! We have a great community and with their response and positivity it has trickled to the students.”
This sentiment has also fostered in the high school students and staff.
English teacher Jennifer Nash said, “I’m excited about having the little kids on campus. I think that it opens a lot of doors for more collaboration between schools. With the money they will save during the construction and the educational opportunities it has for the high schoolers I say it is a win-win situation. I’m also pretty pumped about getting 15 more minutes of sleep.”
There have also been murmurings of there being a possible collaboration between the high school and the elementary school.
Bertasso stated, “They might want office aids or reading buddies or students to interact with some of the classes. Journalism and news students at both levels could collaborate, share, and help on projects, and there could be “field trips” up to the high school for them as well. We have the ability to do all of it, it is just the logistics behind it that still need to get worked out.”
With all of the changes, Dikeos knows that it is important to stay positive and keep her eyes on the final product.
Dikeos stated, “I know there will be kinks that have to be worked out. Our plan is to see how things run the first week and then make changes from there. I like the opportunity that we are getting to make changes in April and May so we will be ready to hit the ground running come August for the 2019-2020 school year.”