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Old School: Thomas Edison Elementary to Become Homes for 26 Families

More than seventy years after it opened as Fourth District Elementary School and nearly four years after it closed as Thomas Edison Elementary, the old schoolhouse on Scott Boulevard debuted in its new life form Wednesday morning. Twenty-six beautifully designed and constructed apartments will be available to low-income families. Complete with new, custom cabinetry, hardwood floors and sweeping vistas of the neighborhood (and for one lucky renter, a 180 degree panoramic view of neighboring houses and the Cincinnati skyline), in addition to original features that remind the new residents that the building was once a school. 

What was once a basketball court is now the floor for several apartments and what was once the school stage is now a community meeting space. It was upon that old stage Wednesday that the community celebrated the new development. Holly Wiedemann, President of AU Associates, the Lexington-based developers of the project told of how she and her colleagues had visited Covington in 2009, toured the building, worked with the City, the Commonwealth and the neighborhood, and by February 2010, had broken ground. "This is a $4.7 million investment in the city and we achieved the ultimate dream of recycling this building," Wiedemann said.

For Covington City Manager Larry Klein and Covington Independent Public Schools Superintendent Lynda Jackson, speaking on the stage was a return to a time earlier in their lives. Klein played on the Covington Latin basketball team in 1968 and the team used the gym to practice. He would take a bus from his home in Elsmere to the corner of Pike & Madison. "That was the beginning and end of my athletic career," Klein joked. "This is something to be proud of. You can tell how much love and care that went into building this place. I know there was just as much love put into it by AU."

Lynda Jackson's grandfather helped build the school when he moved to Covington from Inez, Kentucky during the Great Depression as part of the Works Progress Administration. "He only had an eighth grade education but building a school was his proudest moment because education is the great equalizer," Jackson said. She recalled spending many mornings at the entrance to the building, greeting students. "The last day children were in this school, on this stage was the Kindergarten graduation and I got to acknowledge and hug each student as they left," Jackson said. Thomas Edison closed as a school in 2008 following financial difficulty within the district and declining enrollment.
 
Much of the school's unique infrastructure remains. The old clock that was a constant presence in the principal's office now greets people in the front entrance. The old library floor is still in tact inside one of the new units and features images from famous nursery rhymes. For residents that qualify, rent will range from $450 - $650 per month.
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News