After months and years of uncertainty and haggling, the Warren County School Board appears to have started some forward motion with regard to the long-term configuration of its physical plant.
With the approval Monday night of an architect to undertake the conversion of Eisenhower and Sheffield middle/high schools, the board has set into motion a line of dominoes that will reconfigure about half of the district's facilities for at least the next several decades.
Despite the nagging rumors of closing high schools - we say "rumors" because not once has the board ever voted to close one of the current four high schools or even entertained a motion to that effect - the conversion of Eisenhower and Sheffield to kindergarten through 12th grade essentially makes them safe for the long term. The attendant closing of five elementary schools goes even farther to cement that guarantee.
While some may continue to contend that four high schools are one or two too many, the fact is that when this five-year conversion program is complete, the district's physical plant will be significantly leaner than it is now.
The next step will require even more innovation.
That step will be insuring that the students in each of those four campuses have similar academic opportunities. That will still be a major hurdle, since the secondary student populations don't show any signs of growing over the next several years. Warren Area High School will still have a significantly larger population in grades 9-12 than Sheffield or Eisenhower. What that means is that, in the case of some courses - some advanced mathematics and advanced placement courses, for instance - it is simply too expensive to offer them to classrooms with only two or three students.
That problem isn't alleviated by the building program. It must be tackled with some alternative learning environments, such as distance learning and transient scheduling, for instance.
Given the speed with which the district's new administrative leader has worked to move the district off dead center on facilities, we're hopeful he can guide solutions to the curriculum problem with similar innovation coupled with a heavy dose of common sense.