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 CAB Looks at New Building Projects

March 25, 2009 - With facilities in need of updating and repair, the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation plans to seek public input on prioritizing potential projects.

The CAB School Board voted at its March 17 monthly meeting to give Superintendent Gary Storie permission to form an advisory panel drawn from a cross-section of the community. The panel will look at the needs of CAB’s facilities and make recommendations to the school board.

Storie gave a brief presentation at last week’s meeting about work that needs to be done at each of CAB’s five schools. “They are substantial projects,” he said. As for CAB’s elementary schools, Storie said all three need air conditioning installed, and that Kennard Elementary needs some work on its heating ventilation. Calling his figures “soft estimates,” Storie said work on the elementaries could cost $1,925,000-$2,175,000.

Storie said Knightstown Intermediate School, which is more than 40 years old, also has heating and cooling issues that need to be addressed, and needs its electrical system updated. He estimated that addressing these needs could cost around $3 million.

While less than 10 years old, Storie said Knightstown High School could also use some work on its heating and cooling system to make it more efficient. The cost estimate for this, he said, was about $70,000.

The most costly work at KHS, however, would be the construction of new athletic facilities, such as a track and football and baseball/softball fields. The cost of having all of these, Storie said, could run another $3 million.

Storie said CAB has three general options for dealing with these issues, with the first one being simply maintaining the status quo. A second option, he said, would be to consider closing Kennard or Carthage Elementary, or maybe both.

If only one elementary school is closed, Storie said Knightstown Elementary could accommodate the extra students. However, if both Kennard and Carthage are closed, he said extra space would be needed at Knightstown.

The third option Storie mentioned would be to close KIS. Under that scenario, fifth and sixth graders would be returned to elementary schools, which he said would need improvements to handle the additional two grades. He also said more space would be needed at KHS, which would take the seventh and eighth graders.

As CAB tries to figure out which projects to tackle, Storie said it will be necessary to compile data on estimated costs and look at the feasibility of the different options. It was as a means of gathering input from the community that Storie recommended the board allow him to form a broad-based advisory panel to review information and advise the board.

Board member Mark Fort asked how members of the panel would be selected. Storie said he thought it would be helpful to start with those who served on the committee formed prior to the construction of KHS.

Both Fort and Board President Kevin Knott expressed misgivings about using the same committee. They told Storie they believed it was necessary to get some new members on the panel.

Fort said there are people in the community who were not happy with how the previous committee operated. He said CAB should hold several public forums – as many as needed – to get feedback from taxpayers.

“I would like to see a mixture of folks on that panel,” Knott said. “… My feeling is we need a cross-section of the community in which we live.” Board member Tom Schaetzle added that he thought it would be helpful to have some people on the committee who have experience with cost analysis.

While he said CAB has some “very significant, relatively expensive needs,” Board Vice President Steve Dalton said it was important for him that people know the school board is not contemplating raising taxes to pay for these projects. He also said that any action the board takes will be “done transparently in the light of day,” in a manner consistent with open government.

Knott also echoed that the school board was not contemplating a tax increase to finance any of these potential projects. “We have a duty to be prudent and wise,” he said, when it comes to CAB’s finances.

“We’re just looking at things,” Fort said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to do them. … We’re just looking.”

CAB could possibly get access to a little over $2 million if it follows through with plans to refinance the bond issue that helped pay for KHS. Refinancing that debt would allow CAB to use $1.265 million that is now being held in a sinking fund that only draws about one percent in interest a year. The other funds would come from the savings achieved through the bond refinancing and possibly as much as $800,000 from extending the bond repayment period by two years.

The school board approved a resolution in September that authorizes a bond refinancing as soon as interest rates are low enough to provide at least $100,000 in savings. The Knightstown High School Building Corporation would also have to pass a similar resolution before refinancing can occur, and was expected to consider the issue during a meeting Tuesday night.

Another possible source of funds, Storie said, would be federal stimulus dollars that might be available in the form of grants. “To the degree that we can,” he said, “I’m going to seek as much of that as we can get.”

Teacher Tom Crawford, who said he was speaking as a citizen and not as president of the Classroom Teachers Association, took issue with claims that taxes would not be increased. If CAB chooses to extend the bond repayment period by two years, he said that amounts to paying more taxes.

The board also heard from two other citizens during the meeting with respect to the possibility of building new athletic facilities. One was in favor and one was against. Citing safety concerns, Knightstown resident Dorothy said she thought CAB’s athletic facilities need to be centrally located. She said she also thought not having to move between schools could increase student participation levels.

“I want the children to be safe and I want them to have a good time and have those opportunities,” Hatton said.

Knightstown resident Jim Hope said CAB already has a football field and diamond for baseball and softball. If CAB wants new facilities, he suggested that taxpayers be allowed to vote on whether they want them.

Dalton said CAB has what is probably the worst football field in its conference and noted that the track is not usable in its present state. Without nice athletic facilities, he said enrollment could suffer, saying that if KHS had not had tennis courts, his children likely would have gone to Eastern Hancock.

Citing the lack of air conditioning at the elementary schools, Knott noted that the facility needs are not all athletic in nature. “We have many objectives on the table that we can peruse or look at,” he said.

Hope said he didn’t think the public would object to installing air conditioning in the schools. However, he said he believed education should be CAB’s focus and that there might be some objections to building new athletic facilities.

 

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