Clark-Pleasant maps out growth plans

Before tax dollars are spent on a new heating and air

conditioning system or roof at a Clark-Pleasant elementary school, the question is

whether the repairs are worth the cost.

Sawmill Woods Elementary School was built in 1960, and a recent facilities study showed that the school needs a new heating and air conditioning system, roof, wall, lighting, electrical and other repairs. At the same time, officials have other concerns about the building, including ventilators and dehumidifiers in classrooms, which make it difficult to talk and hear, and a gymnasium that also doubles as a cafeteria, forcing physical education classes out at lunchtime, Superintendent Patrick Spray said.

No repairs are needed immediately, but officials want to start discussing them as they plan for work that will be needed at other buildings in the next 10 years.

On that list: upgrades and renovations to elementary schools’ labs, large-group instruction areas and storage spaces, according to the facilities study conducted by CSO Architects.

The school board also is set to vote on a separate, $3.5 million athletics project at Whiteland Community High School, which will add artificial turf to the football stadium, lanes to the track and locker room space.

Whiteland’s athletic director pitched the athletics field renovations several years ago, and school officials decided to make the

upgrades a priority this school year after parents and residents said the existing facilities were too old.

Clark-Pleasant plans to

borrow $2 million for that project and collect between $600,000 and $800,000 in donations for the athletics renovations.

The rest would come from the school district’s construction fund and from its capital projects fund, which pays for maintenance projects with property tax dollars. The school district has scaled back projects in past years due to limits on the money it can collect for maintenance and repairs.

Spray said the updated facilities study doesn’t change the school district’s plans to update the high school’s athletics facilities, which officials hope to complete by the fall. The facilities study didn’t reveal any critical problems that need to be repaired immediately, and other maintenance projects, including roof maintenance at Clark Elementary, are still happening, Spray said.

“It’s all stuff that we can plan for or has been planned for,”

he said.

The facilities study was a way for school officials to gauge what kinds of building maintenance and repairs are needed at the rest of Clark-Pleasant’s schools over the next few years and to see how much classroom space is available for new and current students.

As school officials decide what building projects to pay for,

they have to plan for the

additional students expected to move into the school district during the next decade.

The school district might

have to consider moving students from one school to another or reorganizing which grades are taught in which buildings,

depending on the number of students who join the school district over the next 10 years.

School officials also could consider closing Sawmill Woods Elementary and moving those students to other buildings instead of paying for repairs, Spray said.

“Everything is on the table,” Spray said.

School officials haven’t made any decisions about whether to move students or close Sawmill Woods; and before those decisions are made, Spray and school board members want to hear from the community. Their plan is to start conducting forums so they can hear from residents before the end of the year. It’s unlikely any major moves would happen before the start of the 2016-17 school year, Spray said.

Right now, Clark-Pleasant has room for additional students at Clark, Pleasant Crossing and Whiteland Elementary schools, Clark-Pleasant Middle School and at the high school. Break-O-Day Elementary and Clark-Pleasant Intermediate are nearly at capacity, according to the school district’s facilities study.

If adjustments are made,

such as moving students to

different schools or shifting grades to different buildings, then the school district shouldn’t have to begin a building project or open a new school for at least five years, Spray said.

Later this year, school officials should receive an update

on the number of students they can expect over the next decade. In the meantime, officials will decide how to meet with residents and start considering whether

to reconfigure the grades at

the buildings.

At a glance

Clark-Pleasant school officials are considering how to make repairs at their buildings while handling expected growth.

Here are some of the options being considered:

  • Close Sawmill Woods Elementary
  • Move students to schools that have available classroom space
  • Change which grades are taught at which buildings

Here is where school officials go from here:

  • Update enrollment projections
  • Meet with residents to find out what proposals people support, oppose and question