Open areas where students from multiple classrooms can learn and work together weren’t always considered standard when Clark-Pleasant was building new schools.
But today, teachers like to have larger, open spaces where they can make presentations to dozens of students from different classes simultaneously. Science teachers need labs at schools with modern equipment so they can conduct experiments with students.
“It’s hard to do that in a traditional classroom,” Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said. “They’re just part of the norm now, where they weren’t 30 to 40 years ago.”
Not all of Clark-Pleasant’s elementary schools, which were built between the early 1900s and 1993, have the large-group instruction areas and labs teachers would like. As school officials and residents decide what building projects and upgrades they can afford to make during the next several years, they’ll consider whether to add labs and large-group instruction areas to any of the schools.
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A group of architects recently completed a facilities study of all Clark-Pleasant schools. According to the study, Break-O-Day, Clark, Sawmill Woods and Whiteland elementary schools all could use new or updated labs or large-group instruction areas.
But just because something can be added or renovated at one of the schools doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, Rains said.
School officials also must consider what kinds of maintenance and repairs will be needed over time and then figure out what upgrades the school district can afford to make. And they want to hear what the community has to say about the list of projects.
“It’s just kind of one of those situations where we’re going to take some time to digest it,” Rains said.
Clark-Pleasant has been careful about not overspending on building upgrades and maintenance or adding to its debt in recent years. Property tax caps limit the amount of property tax dollars the school district can collect to upgrade buildings or repay money that is borrowed.
The school board recently approved making more than $3 million in renovations to Whiteland Community High School’s athletics facilities, including installing artificial turf at the football stadium, widening the track and creating a practice field for the band. That project will cost between $3.1 million and $3.5 million and will be paid for with a combination of loans, sponsorships, donations and money from the school district’s capital projects fund. Superintendent Patrick Spray has said that project was necessary because of growing concerns from the public that the athletics fields were getting too old and needed to be repaired.
The study of the individual buildings was done so that school officials had an updated idea of the schools’ conditions and so that they knew how much more room there was for students, Spray has said.
Money for any new building projects could come from the school district’s capital projects fund, or the school district could borrow money for elementary school projects that are less than $10 million. Elementary school projects that exceed $10 million and high school projects that exceed $20 million must be approved by voters in a referendum.
According to the study, Sawmill Woods is in the most need of repair. The building needs a new heating and air conditioning system, and ventilators and dehumidifiers that are in the classrooms now make it difficult for students and teachers to hear each other.
The school also needs roof, wall, lighting, electrical and other repairs. There also are space issues. The gymnasium doubles as a cafeteria, meaning physical education classes must find other space during lunchtime.
Part of what school officials have to decide is whether to make repairs and upgrades at Sawmill Woods or whether it’s financially wiser to close the school and send its kindergarten and first-grade students to another building. No decisions have been made, partly because school officials want to hear what the public has to say first, and nothing is expected to happen before fall of 2016.
As school officials consider what to do about Sawmill Woods, they also will consider whether to make repairs and upgrades at other buildings. Most of the heating and air conditioning systems are years away from needing to be replaced, but several buildings need electrical, lighting, roof or other repairs, according to the facilities study.
Before any decisions are made, school officials want to hear from parents and residents in the school district. Officials are working now on a plan for how the community can share its thoughts on upcoming building projects, and then the school district can start planning what projects to move forward with.