When fresh-looking students arrive Wednesday for their first day of classes, some of the environments they will walk into also will be spiffed up.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. began a district-wide school facilities improvement project this summer that will be finished at some buildings but will continue at others.

Clifty Creek Elementary School has renovated its library with walls that have received a fresh coat of paint, LED lights and new carpet.

It is among school buildings to receive improvements as part of a $6.7 million plan to upgrade school facilities and playgrounds. Officials are borrowing the money through general obligation bonds that are expected to be paid over a 10-year period.

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Corridor and ramp renovations also have been made inside the Clifty Creek building. Cubbies have been added to about a dozen classrooms that will allow students to store their backpacks, jackets and other items for the upcoming school year, said Loren Brummett, manager of projects for Bartholomew Consolidated.

Cabinets and SmartBoards were added to some classrooms as well, while hallways have been made brighter thanks to installation of LED lights.

“The new lighting is a tremendous help,” Brummett said.

The public restroom on the school’s main floor was gutted and renovated with new sinks, mirrors, paper-towel holders and restroom stalls in the boys and girls bathrooms.

Michael Parsons, the new principal at Clifty Creek, said the improvements will provide a better environment — not only for students, but also for teachers.

“The library’s phenomenal,” Parsons said.

Parsons said the new LED lighting brightens up the school as a whole, adding that research has shown students learn best when they are in an environment that is safe and inviting.

The work at Clifty Creek will be completed by the time school starts.

“It provides an eclectic feel as you’re walking down the hall,” he said. “By bettering that environment, our hope is that their educational atmosphere will be improved as well.”

Elsewhere across the district, flooring has been replaced in classrooms at Smith Elementary School, which has added SmartBoards in classrooms for the new school year. Cases to store materials have been added at Taylorsville Elementary School and permanent walls have been built to take the place of movable walls in some areas within the school, Brummett said.

The work at Taylorsville and Smith elementary schools has been completed as students prepare to head back to the classroom.

Purpose of the renovations across the district is to ensure the school district provides an environment that is conducive to student learning, Superintendent Jim Roberts said. While building needs are different at their respective locations, improvements such as new flooring and technology are intended to meet the needs of students.

“We are good to go in getting kids in safe and productive learning environments,” Roberts said. “They’re welcoming to whoever walks in, whether that’s a parent or other stakeholders in the community.”

New flooring also has been installed at Richards Elementary School in time for the new school year, but a broken fire door in the cafeteria still needs to be replaced and will be installed once the replacement door arrives in the next few weeks.

A small portion of the roof was replaced at Northside Middle School, which had a majority of its roof replaced in 2013, Brummett said. However, future improvements to the roof at Parkside Elementary School will have to wait until next year due to time constraints.

Playground upgrades at 11 elementary schools also are planned at a cost of $2 million, although they won’t be done all at once. Brummett said four schools are set to receive new playgrounds this winter once the projects can be bid out, although he did not immediately know those locations.

The remaining seven playgrounds are set to receive upgrades next summer, he said.

High school upgrades

Improvements at Columbus East High School will continue as the school year begins. The school is replacing its bleachers in the main gymnasium as part of a project that will bring a brown and orange look to new seats and orange railings to match the high school colors.

Guard rails will be replaced on both sides of the bleachers to bring them up to code, Brummett said.

The upper bleachers on both sides already have been removed, while contractors are expected to remove the lower bleachers in preparation for installation of the new bleachers by Sept. 28, Brummett said. The project will mean the girls volleyball team will hold its practices and games in the school’s auxiliary gymnasium, said Pete Huse, East athletic director.

Huse said the new motorized bleachers will be beneficial, especially as the school plans to host a boys basketball sectional this year and a semistate volleyball competition this upcoming year.

“It’s exciting,” Huse said. “It’s just nice that the community knows they’re being heard and we’re doing things to make them come to ballgames.”

The running track at Stafford Field has been resurfaced by crews from Chicago-based Track Surfaces Co. as part of improvements elsewhere on the East campus. The pole vault pit could be upgraded if there is any money left over, Huse said.

The work at East, along with renovations at the Judson Erne Auditorium at Columbus North, are being paid through interest money refunded through $3 million worth of Build America bonds, which were made available after the recession and allowed Bartholomew Consolidated to reinvest in its facilities.

The latest improvements at the two high schools follow an $89 million expansion and renovation at both schools completed more than three years ago.

The auditorium renovations at North include the installation of seven heating and air conditioning handlers, while all of the seats will be replaced.

The auditorium sustained damage in a Dec. 5 fire that started when an overhead light blew and ignited plastic on the fixture. It resulted in extensive smoke and soot damage, including the loss of about 35 seats that had caught fire in the auditorium, firefighters said.

The seats, which were original to the 32-year-old auditorium, have already been removed in preparation for the arrival of new seats. However, there has been a three-week delay in getting the new seats from the manufacturer, Brummett said.

That has pushed back the completion date of the project to the first week of October, Brummett said.

Overhead lights will be replaced in the auditorium, which will eventually bring a different seating configuration from four aisles to three when work wraps up this fall. When the seats are installed, it will result in a reduction of 48 seats.

The auditorium had 1,067 seats, but the change will result in 1,019 seats due to the reconfiguration, Brummett said.

Ramps to get onto the stage and to access the seating area will be installed as part of the project, Brummett said.

Paying for renovations

What: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. facility improvement projects that includes upgrading school buildings, playgrounds.

Cost: $6.7 million approved last fall as part of a plan to upgrade school buildings and playgrounds.

Funding: The district is borrowing the money through general obligation bonds that are expected to be paid over a 10-year period.

Renovation work at Columbus East, North high schools: Project being paid through interest money refunded through $3 million worth of Build America bonds, which were made available after the recession.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com