Center Grove won’t be building new schools any time soon.
Before a new elementary school or middle school would be built, hundreds more students would need to come to Center Grove schools.
Based on current estimates, a new elementary school wouldn’t be needed until 2028, and a new middle school until 2043.
Those timelines are based on current enrollment in Center Grove schools. At the elementary schools, more than 300 new students would need to come to the district before the schools would be considered too full. And at the middle schools, enrollment would need to be about 350 more.
Schools are nearing what officials consider to be the ideal enrollment, where elementary classrooms can be kept at 20 to 25 students, and middle schools at 25 students.
But before building a new school, current buildings need to be full, with no room for more students. The schools need to be so full of students that a new school would immediately be occupied, Center Grove Chief Financial Officer Paul Gabriel said.
“You don’t build a school the moment you hit capacity. You do it when you’re over capacity so you have people to put into it,” Gabriel said.
That’s why officials are planning to move students to different elementary and middle schools, in order to move them out of schools that are too full and into buildings that have more space. And those kind of moves could be needed again in the future, before new schools would be built, officials said.
Center Grove also has been doing renovations and adding a few classrooms to elementary schools, measures also needed to make space for the future, officials said.
Right now, school officials estimate a new elementary school would be needed in 2028, but they want to begin planning for it now.
They already know that debt from other building projects will be paid off before then, meaning the tax rate won’t increase to build a new school. But officials also need to consider the need for a future elementary school or middle school now and tell the public about those needs, Gabriel said.
One reason is because a future school building project, if it costs more than $10 million, would need to be approved in a public vote, he said.
And the school district’s job will be to sell the need for that project to the taxpayers, he said.
Residents and parents also have been asking about when new schools will be needed as officials have discussed redistricting plans.
Officials also want to know what the public thinks is needed at local schools, including smaller projects such as the renovations the school district has been doing, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.
Other projects, including work to the high school pool, also are being considered, but officials want to be sure that they don’t significantly increase taxes. That’s why they are looking years out for when projects should be done to know what is impacting the tax rate and when other projects can be paid for, too, Assistant Superintendent Bill Long said.
The school district is planning a public meeting later this spring to discuss long-term building projects, Arkanoff said.