FOURTEEN buildings in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. are about to get $23.5 million in improvements, an endeavor that is backed by sound research and buttressed by precise forethought.
Coming on the heels of a massive $89 million rehabilitation and expansion of Columbus East and North high schools, this newest upgrade proposal has been greeted with unanimous approval by the school board, acceptance by the overall community and relatively little pushback even from traditional opponents of undertakings of this magnitude.
One reason for this reaction was the well-documented research and impressive reasoning behind each of the improvement projects.
Steve Forster, the school corporation’s director of operations, and other members of a research team used easy-to-understand methodology in outlining the projects at each of the sites and explaining why they were necessary. They presented their findings in layman’s terms, utilizing examples that made clear-cut cases for improvements.
While some of these improvements will make the buildings more aesthetically pleasing, a great deal of this investment is in important enhancements to infrastructure elements, such as air handling equipment and other mechanical systems. Forster outlined these improvements by applying a point system to each of the buildings in terms of their physical condition. The findings were somewhat obvious when broken down by the age of the structures.
Smith Elementary School, for instance, was faced with outdated plumbing and poor energy efficiency. A 1968-era boiler has obviously gone past its shelf life, and the air conditioning and ventilating systems are in need of upgrades.
McDowell Adult Education Center dates to 1960 and is in line for a new fire alarm system.
Space needs also are being addressed. At Columbus East, a room originally built as a drapery closet now serves as an office for teachers in the arts area. Anticipated improvements should bring a measure of order to the area.
The public is coming to grasp that the deterioration these buildings have experienced is due not just to their age but to their use in housing hundreds of students, faculty and staff on a daily basis.
The timing of this particular project fits in with the detailed planning that was devoted to it. Paying for the bond that will have to be issued to cover the costs will begin as an earlier bond issued 20 years ago for additions at Northside Middle School and Schmitt Elementary School comes to an end. There will be no increase in property taxes as a result of this project, school officials have said.
There have been times in the past when multimillion-dollar improvement projects encountered firestorms from protesters.
Such a reaction was avoided this time because of the sound reasoning that went into establishing the immediate needs and the open and forthright manner in which they were presented to the public.