Columbus North and East high schools stand to gain more than a third of the funds in a possible $23.5 million bond issue being considered by the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. A majority of the $8 million designated to the district’s two high schools would go toward sports and performing arts.
The proposed new bond issue — which lists construction projects at 14 of the 18 schools in the district — comes on the heels of $89 million worth of improvements already done to North and East high schools’ academic and administrative buildings during the past three years.
The schools’ principals — North’s David Clark and East’s Mark Newell — described the recommended spending as a much-needed second phase.
What’s in store at North?
Just completed $89 million improvements
Here’s what a just-completed $89 million renovation and repair project achieved at the two Columbus high schools.
Over the past three years, the 56-year-old Columbus North building was updated with roughly $50 million worth of improvements.
Its band and choir rooms were enlarged, and a new main entrance was added on the north side of the school.
Then came a new media room. And classrooms were updated with new lighting and fresh paint.
The school has seen nearly $40 million spent over three years to renovate academic areas.
Another project was done to enable wireless Internet access.
Administrative offices were consolidated into a former courtyard space for easier access by visitors.
The new work at North would include $2 million to replace or repair bleachers at the 2,000-seat football stadium and build a new press box to replace one that is nearly 60 years old. North’s gymnasium and pool also would get a $2 million facelift.
“We hope the community can be supportive and we can move forward,” Clark said of the proposal that was introduced at Monday night’s school board meeting. “We are not looking to break the bank.”
Clark and North Athletic Director Jeff Hester said replacing a crumbling and cramped press box and making other football-stadium repairs is a matter of safety for fans, students and other guests, as well as functionality.
“We’re not trying to build the Taj Mahal. We just want something that’s fitting for a school our size,” Clark said.
Hester said installing new bleachers could lead to an increase in seating capacity to about 2,500 fans.
North’s crosstown rivalry game against East drew a standing-room-only crowd in the fall. It also generated so much media interest that North had to turn away some TV stations from press box access because the tiny space already was filled, Hester said.
“We want something that’s excellent, but not extravagant,” Hester said. He said a new press box would ideally seat about 20 people comfortably, up from 14 today.
Columbus North is awaiting word from state high school rules makers on whether it will move up from 5A to 6A in football next season. Moving to the higher classification probably would increase fan and media scrutiny, Hester said.
“The 6A programs have more coaches, more media and more people who follow them,” he said. “We need something up-to-date in terms of a press box, and we’d like it to be equipped for wireless. We’re thinking about the possible webcast of our football games next year.”
Football stadium work also would add an outbuilding on the visitors’ side with restrooms, concessions and more storage space.
Clark said work at North High School also would include replacing east and west bleachers in the school’s main gym and making electrical upgrades.
A pool that dates to the early 1980s also would get a makeover, with exterior repairs to plug leaky pool walls and new seating to spruce up a “dirty, dusty, cruddy” spectator area, the principal said. “It’s pretty bad, pretty moldy.”
Hester said the northernmost exterior pool wall shows visible signs of moisture dripping through it. The athletic director said the swimming facility is used by students, and it’s open many mornings for senior swims by community members.
What’s in store at East?
At Columbus East, the new bond issue would pay for
$4 million in expansion and repairs to its sports, physical education and performing arts facilities. The main gymnasium’s heating and air conditioning system also would be upgraded.
“I don’t think any of these things are frills; these are basic needs,” said Bob Gaddis, Columbus East’s athletic director.
One part of the proposed work would fix what Gaddis called “outdated and poorly designed locker rooms,” not just for athletes but for roughly 600 or 700 students who take physical education classes.
“Some of them have to share lockers, and when other schools’ sports teams visit (for games), there’s no visitors’ locker rooms. The physical education lockers double as space for the visiting teams,” Gaddis said.
Columbus East’s own sports teams have a separate locker area. After the 2008 Columbus flood, damaged lockers at East were replaced with more spacious, up-to-date ones, the athletic director said. But older lockers in the boys’ and girls’ PE areas were just cleaned and put back in place as they were, Gaddis said.
“The PE lockers are cramped and dilapidated,” he said. “What we’re talking about now is a complete redesign of the space. We’re not talking about something fancy at all, just functional.”
Another component of the work calls for replacing or repairing bleachers in Columbus East’s main gym, adding safety features and possibly replacing the motor that moves the seats back and forth for games and other functions.
“The main gym has no railings for people to use when they go up and down the aisles. Fixing that is a matter of safety,” Gaddis said.
Half of Columbus East’s funding would go to a
$2 million addition and renovation to its performing arts rooms. That part of the project would benefit the school’s band, choir and theater students, and improve access for spectators, school officials said.
There would be a new band room with improved acoustics, new dressing rooms with easier access to the theater’s stage and an elevator to the stage floor, said Janelle Runge, East’s performing arts director.
Right now, getting to and from dressing rooms requires walking down two flights of stairs, and that’s cumbersome for students and community groups that rent the theater space, Runge said.
A new band room would be larger than the current one and offer more storage for instruments, Runge said.
“We’re forced to juggle quite a few things, and these renovations would provide outstanding benefits to our students,” she said.
Newell said the performing arts renovations would give East more flexible space.
“This was our No. 1 priority. We’re trying to meet the needs of all our students, and performing arts fuels the passion of many of our students,” the principal said. “We want to provide them with a top-rated learning environment.”