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McKenzie unveils new campus facilities

Students returning to McKenzie School this week were treated to a pair of surprises on campus.

The McKenzie community gathered to celebrate the completion of construction on McKenzie School’s new high school building and an aquaponics lab with a ribbon cutting Sunday.

McKenzie principal Miles Brown was on hand, alongside Butler County Schools superintendent John Strycker and McKenzie faculty and staff, parents and students.

Brown said that though he saw the final stages of the construction to completion, he extended heartfelt thanks to a select few people for making the project happen in the first place.

“I want to thank Mrs. Amy Bryan, the Butler County Board of Education and Mike Gunter for starting this process,” Brown said. “It was my first year being principal and I just took the baton and ran with it, and the same goes for Dr. Strycker.  If it weren’t for Amy Bryan, Mike Gunter and the board of education, we wouldn’t have this building here at McKenzie.”

The new high school building, which cost more than $1.3 million, contains seven classrooms that houses two math teachers, two science teachers, two English teachers and one history teacher.

An older building that contained five classrooms and a storage building were torn down to accommodate the new high school building.

Brown said that cutting the ribbon, and thus making the construction’s completion official, was a proud moment for him not only as a principal, but as a member of the McKenzie community.

“I’m a graduate of McKenzie,” he said. “I live right here in the community at McKenzie, so I really know what McKenzie means to everybody that’s a part of it.  When I cut the ribbon, I just felt all of this emotion come over me because I thought that this was a big day not just for the school, but for the community.”

Also, despite being a bit smaller in size and scope, McKenzie’s new aquaponics greenhouse was the subject of just as much, if not more, excitement than the new high school facility.

Few were as enthusiastic about its completion as Brown himself, who called it a marvel of ingenuity.

The greenhouse, a product of a $40,000 grant secured by Butler County Career Academy director Jennifer Burt, allows for the raising of fish and the growth of plants.  What’s more is that the two systems operate in tandem.

“There’s a circulation process in which the waste from the fish water will circulate to the plants and fertilize them, and then the clean water will come off the plants back into the fish tanks,” Brown said.

The decision to build the greenhouse was sparked by the hiring of second-year agriculture teacher Christin Smith.

“When we hired her, Mrs. Burt and I began talking to her about an aquaponics greenhouse,” Brown said.

“We decided that we wanted to build the program around her interest and not make her fit the mold of the agriculture teachers before her.  She has a strong love and passion for plant and animal sciences.”

The ultimate goal of the new greenhouse, and the Career Academy as a whole, is to give students practical hands-on experience with as many disciplines as possible.  For McKenzie School, those areas are agriculture and business. 

And though high school students are the primary beneficiaries, Brown said that all students at McKenzie would stand to gain something from the experience.

“This aquaponics greenhouse doesn’t just benefit my high school students—it benefits my elementary school students,” Brown said.

“They’re going to have times to go into the aquaponics greenhouse and do projects for their science classes.”