CINCINNATI - Kim Ksander and Amber Huber have spent hour after hour getting their pre-kindergarten classrooms ready for the Sept. 4 start of classes in the Little Miami School District.
"I'm really excited," said Huber.
Ksander chimed in, "It's a fresh start."
Their task is more unusual this year than in the past. Both are teachers assigned to Harlan Butlerville Elementary School and the building has been closed for three years due to the district's budget woes.
However, it's the dawn of a new era for Little Miami after years of being in fiscal emergency and under state control. Harlan Butlerville Elementary is reopening. So is Hamilton Maineville Elementary.
Half-day, everyday kindergarten has been restored.
All bus service is back as well.
Pay-to-play fees have been cut from $651 per student to $350 for the high school and $275 for the junior high.
The excitement is due to the fact that voters approved a 13.95 mill tax levy last November on the ninth try.
It is costing the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $427 a year in property taxes.
"Now it's time to show the voters exactly who we are and how we can best use the resources now that we have them available to us," said Ksander.
Superintendent Greg Power said he prefers things the way they are now compared to what has gone on the past few years.
"It's really wonderful to be focused back on our primary mission, which is helping kids learn, supporting kids in a learning environment and providing them with as many new opportunities as we can," he said.
The new money and the restored programs is attracting plenty of interest from parents of school age children -- some of them who left the district as levies failed and many of them brand new to the schools.
"We were a little over 3,800 students when we ended the school year," Power said. "It looks like we'll be about 4,100 as we open our doors here on September the fourth."
Kindergarten enrollment is expected to increase by 60 children. That's no accident. The district has been actively been recruiting with phone calls and letters to parents.
Despite failed levies and program cuts, Little Miami still managed to keep its "Excellent" rating on the Ohio Report Card.
Huber said that's due to the dedication of the teachers, staff members and administrators.
"We are here every day doing what we think is best for the kids and we're glad that they're liking what we're doing," she said.
Another teacher who can't wait for school to start is first-grade instructor Tonya Carmack. Her room is ready to go -- in part because she decided to paint it herself.
"It's a positive start to a new year," she said. "It's exciting to see the kids get everything back that they've missed."
According to Power, the next steps for the district are to get out of fiscal emergency and away from state
oversight. He said $7 million of the $11 million loan from the state has been repaid and he hopes that local control can be restored by the end of 2012 or in early 2013.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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