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Schools seeking $23.5 million in upgrades

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The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is looking to move immediately to the final phase of its school building improvement plan — this time to the tune of about $23.5 million that officials say would not require a tax increase.

Fresh off a recently completed $89 million expansion and improvement project at Columbus North and Columbus East high schools, the school district under a second phase would finance millions more to improve safety, infrastructure and educational features at 14 of its 18 schools, including North and East.

Columbus East athletic director Bob Gaddis said school board members visited a few weeks ago “to assess our needs.”

The school stands to get a projected $4 million in upgrades, primarily to its sports, physical education and performing arts facilities. Half the amount would pay for an addition to the high school’s performing arts area, with the biggest improvement being a new band room.

If you go

What: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Board will discuss a proposed $23.5 million improvement project at 14 schools.

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Schmitt Elementary School cafeteria, 2675 California St.

Also on the agenda: Approve a resolution intended to send a message to the state that it puts too much emphasis on standardized tests to evaluate students and schools.

At Columbus North High School,

$4 million would be used to replace or refurbish the bleachers and an aging press box at the school’s football stadium, replace east and west bleachers in the main gym and fix what Principal David Clark described as leaky swimming pool walls and make other repairs to that swim facility.

District officials and the school board will present details and listen to the public’s questions, comments and concerns during a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Schmitt Elementary School.

Superintendent John Quick said he hopes the school board will vote as early as next month on how much if any of the plan to take on, so district officials and consultant CSO Architects can start putting together a plan about how to spread the work over the next two or three years and perhaps start work on some components as early as this summer.

He said the school board’s readiness to move forward will depend on whether its members or the public have lingering questions.

“A lot of it will depend on how things go Monday,” said Quick, who plans to bring the issue back for further discussion at the Feb. 11 board meeting.

The school administration began planning for Phase 2 building improvements in 2005, when it paid CSO Architects to assess all the district’s facilities and their levels of need, said John Rigsbee, a principal at CSO Architects of Indianapolis. Out of that plan came the conclusion that the high schools needed help the most, which led to the public voting in favor of a tax-raising referendum for an $89 million bond issue.

Phase 1 work included overhauling most of both high schools, building new classrooms, upgrading technology, repairing failing roofs and transforming classrooms into flexible, adaptable spaces.

Phase 2 is the part of the plan that district officials could not afford at the time. District officials and CSO updated the plan for the first time since 2005 upon the completion of the high school renovation projects last year.

Quick said the time is ideal to implement the next phase, partly because a 20-year, $30 million bond that paid for additions at Northside Middle School and Schmitt will end this year.

By launching Phase 2 now and setting its project at $23.5 million, the school system can continue taxing residents at the same level that they were accustomed to under the last bond.

The school board can set the project amount higher or lower than $23.5 million, which would determine whether or to what level property taxes might rise, fall or stay the same.

Quick said another reason this is a great time for Phase 2 is that the interest rate would be low, allowing for more money to go toward the buildings themselves instead of interest. Work would occur at a total of 14 schools, not including Central Middle School, which opened in 2007, plus Schmitt and Rock Creek elementary schools and Columbus Signature Academy-New Tech High School.

No referendum would be necessary in a public election because the proposed amount would fall within existing tax levels, Quick said. He said the public’s opportunity to stand for or against the project instead would come during board meetings, with only the board members getting a vote.

Rigsbee said work at each school would be bid separately, which he hoped leads to more companies bidding because of the more manageable individual scope. He said CSO would serve as a liaison between the contractors and the school system to make sure work is done correctly.

He said the Phase 2 improvements further the school system’s goal, which is to maximize the quality of students’ education while keeping them safe.

Mike Jamerson, director of technology for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said studies show that facility improvements such as technology help students excel and put them on par with those in other communities.

Technology already has been upgraded at North, East and CSA-New Tech high schools, Clifty Creek Elementary School, CSA-Lincoln campus and CSA-Fodrea campus.

He said technology improvements at the other schools would include installing wires and cable into the walls so high-tech projectors can be mounted on ceilings, maximizing space. They also would include the installation of amplification equipment, which makes it easier for everyone to hear in the classroom.

The project includes improved security at nine of the 14 schools targeted for improvements.

Security improvements at their most basic level probably will include installing vestibule systems in which visitors must come through the main offices to gain access to student areas through yet another door, Rigsby said.

Quick said last month’s shootings in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 elementary school students are in the backs of his and other local officials’ minds as they consider moving forward on the Phase 2 renovations. But he said the district’s security improvements were being planned well before the tragedy.

Project summaries

Fodrea Signature Academy

Improvements: Building security; classroom conversions; renovations of media center, music room and restrooms.

Cost: $1.35 million

Clifty Creek and Richards elementary schools, Lincoln Signature Academy

Improvements: Entrance and building security.

Cost: $450,000.

Southside Elementary School

Improvements: Entrance and building security; classroom renovations; technology; new floors.

Cost: $1.2 million.

Johnson Education Center

Improvements: Heating and air conditioning.

Cost: $600,000.

Mt. Healthy

Elementary School

Improvements: Entrance and building security; classroom and restroom renovations; technology.

Cost: $2 million.

McDowell Adult

Education Center

Improvements: Building security, classroom and restroom renovations; technology; fire alarm system; renovate east office area and main building corridor.

Cost: $1.95 million.

East High School

Performing Arts addition

Improvements: New band room; new dressing rooms; elevator; students restrooms; vehicle ramp.

Cost: $2 million.

East High School interior renovations

Improvements: Renovate locker rooms; replace main gym bleachers; renovate student academic lockers, flooring on main level; renovate main gym heating and air conditioning.

Cost: $2 million.

North High School

outdoor improvements

Improvements: New press box at football stadium; replace or refurbish and expand home and visitors bleachers at football stadium; replace fencing around track.

Cost: $2 million.

North High School

pool and gyms

Improvements: Replace east, west bleacher in main gym; electrical and plumbing upgrades in gym; renovate pool spectator seating area; renovate pool heating and air conditioning, lighting, pool filtration system; repair pool walls.

Cost: $2 million.

Parkside Elementary School

Improvements: Entrance and building security; renovate 1961 and 1989 classrooms; technology; add coat cubbies to classrooms; replace heating and air conditioning piping; improve acoustics in gym and cafeteria.

Cost: $2 million.

Smith Elementary School

Improvements: Entrance and building security; heating and air conditioning renovations.

Cost: $2 million.

Northside Middle School

Improvements: Roof replacement.

Cost: $2 million.

Taylorsville Elementary School

Improvements: Entrance and building security; heating and air conditioning renovations.

Cost: $2 million.

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