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Forest Hills won't merge high schools. Instead, district looks to put a levy on the ballot

five people sit at two tables
Zack Carreon
Members of the Forest Hills School Board met Wednesday evening.

Forest Hills isn't planning to merge its two high schools. Instead, the district will consider asking voters for a combined operating tax levy and a permanent improvement levy.

Superintendent Larry Hook announced he's putting a pause on a plan to merge the district's two high schools. Hook says the district needs to prioritize stabilizing its financial situation for long-term success. The superintendent is recommending the combined levy be placed on the ballot in May of next year.

Last month, Forest Hills School Board of Education President Linda Hausfeld wrote the district had been approached by a private firm to merge Anderson and Turpin high schools to ease the district's financial stress.

At Wednesday night's board meeting, a possible levy option was presented to cover the district's current expenses and pay for improvements to its buildings.

Some members were less than impressed by the proposed solution and raised concerns about the levy not receiving support from the community next year after a majority of school levies and bond issues in the Cincinnati area failed to pass in November's midterm election.

"I think there's a number out there that 70% of the people in the Anderson community do not have or send kids to the Forest Hills School District, so I think it would be important to engage all of those people," Hausfeld said. "How do you reach out to a community that we don't know how to get ahold of?"

The superintendent was more optimistic about the support the district would receive from voters if a levy was placed on the ballot.

"You've got to look individually at communities and what's critical to them. I think our community will be very engaged in it. I think the interest will be high," Hook said.

Hook stressed nothing is official yet and this is the next step in the ongoing search for a solution to the district's financial issues. He says Forest Hills will need to continue to hear from the community before moving forward.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.