’21st Century learning’: Parkside offers a ‘hardhat tour’ of renovation work, and a glimpse of the future

Community leaders received a glimpse of Parkside Elementary School renovations as interior demolition work continues.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. offered a hard hat tour to district leaders, city officials and members of the media on Tuesday afternoon. Parkside families were invited to attend a town hall meeting about the project later Tuesday night.

“We’re really excited about this, as you can probably guess,” said BCSC Director of Operations Brett Boezeman. “The first of hopefully several renovations to our buildings in BCSC.”

The Parkside renovation project is estimated to last two years and cost $16 million. BCSC project manager Greg Ferguson said that the estimated time of completion is June 2024.

Interior work began in October and will take place across multiple phases. The renovations include a new STEM lab, large group instruction areas, dedicated mental health spaces and single lockable restrooms. There are also plans for classrooms to feature more natural light, flooring, cabinetry and windows. At the same time, significant architectural features, such as existing interior beams, will be preserved.

Currently, interior demolition is underway on two sections of the school, which school officials referred to as Areas A and F. Area A will be home to new kindergarten classrooms, and F is where the new sixth grade classrooms will be located. Both sections are part of phase 2, which school officials expect to be completed around February or March of 2023.

At present, kindergarteners have been moved to four temporary classrooms located in the gym. Principal Chris Smith said that physical education is largely taking place outdoors, with students going to the school’s indoor “Forum” space in the event of inclement weather.

The school has also split the Harrison Room into two temporary classrooms, and rooms 112 and 114 are being utilized for instruction as well, for a total of eight temporary classrooms.

Columbus City Councilman Tom Dell, who attended the tour, asked how much classrooms will be shifted during the construction process. Smith replied that each grade has to move at least once, and most will likely move twice. There is one grade that may move about three or four times, and fifth graders will be in the gym for almost a year.

Ferguson added that teachers have a schedule and are aware of when changes will occur.

Future phases of the project include converting the existing music room into an emotional wellness center and converting a space known as the Forum into a dedicated STEM lab.

There are also plans for exterior changes as well, including an expansion of the west parking lot, a new drive to improve parent pick-up and drop off, resurfacing work, sidewalk replacements, and a new gated bus pickup and drop-off lot that can also double as a hard surface play area and event parking.

Boezeman said that this exterior work is the only part of the project that still needs to be bid out.

According to Ferguson, the school corporation had previously sought bids but saw inflated pricing on asphalt and concrete. Since the work will not take place until the summer of 2023 and the summer of 2024, the school corporation decided to wait and rebid these pieces.

Estimates for the overall project cost have varied. It was estimated to be $18.71 million in August, which was up significantly from an initial $11.9 million estimate given in summer of 2021. However, more recent estimates put the price tag at $16 million. Ferguson noted that they were able to save almost $700,000 by rebidding HVAC and plumbing.

Smith said that teachers have been involved with the project, providing input about their needs and their thoughts on possible changes.

“We want this school to be like 21st century learning,” he said. “21st century — not just learning, but what you see when you go out in the community and go to places where people work, because we want kids growing up and working in an area and collaborating together and doing these things that they’re going to be doing in the middle school and high school and college and then when they’re out in the workforce. And right now, we do our best with what we have. But putting them in that physical space and changing the way we do things as far as teaching, instruction and learning is just — that’s what we’re focusing on.”