After spending $42 million to add classrooms, make school entrances more secure and remodel classrooms and offices, Center Grove is looking at what’s next.
Construction continues at several schools, and work is planned next at Pleasant Grove Elementary School. But officials don’t want to stop there.
In the next 10 years, most of the school district’s debt will be paid off, allowing Center Grove to borrow money without significantly raising the property tax rate.
Officials already know a new elementary school could be needed by 2028, based on enrollment projections. But they also want to plan for other needs in facilities, athletics and academics.
On the wish list after a public forum: a larger pool; more athletic facilities, such as a fieldhouse with multiple indoor courts and fields; more space for school clubs to meet; and more music rooms.
Those were the suggestions from a group of about 50 parents and residents who attended a public meeting this week to discuss the future needs of the school district.
Next, Center Grove would need to decide what projects are top priorities and how they would be paid for, officials said.
If a project costs more than $10 million, the school district would have to get approval in a public referendum, which is why planning is important, Center Grove assistant superintendent Bill Long said.
A new or remodeled pool could easily cost more than $10 million, and that will need to be discussed when planning, he said.
Parents raised concerns about the size of the pool, which requires teams to schedule practices late into the evening in order to get time in the pool, and said other comparably sized schools have a 50-meter pool, which also offers opportunities to host events Center Grove could make money from.
The pool is definitely on the list of projects the school district is considering, but a big concern is the cost since the actual work would carry a high price tag, and operating costs would be higher once work was done, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.
School officials will need to consider the timeline for projects, since projections show a new elementary school will be needed as enrollment grows.
Officials will need to consider how to afford other projects, such as a pool or athletic facilities, along with the new school, Arkanoff said.
Another concern is whether other teams and clubs have enough space to practice, and one option the school should consider is an athletic fieldhouse with multiple fields and courts, which teams could use and other groups could rent. Schools that Center Grove competes with have similar facilities, parents said.
Parents also suggested the school district look into sponsorships or agreements with businesses to help fund the projects.
Arkanoff said the school district is considering those options and learned from working with businesses on a new STEM lab, which the school district is planning to build in the former maintenance building. Businesses want to see the school district commit to the project first, with a timeline and plans, he said.
One of the goals of the school district is to educate the community on the value of the schools when planning projects that would need to be approved in a public referendum, especially since more than half of residents do not have children in the schools, Arkanoff said.
That’s why the school district needs the support of multiple groups — even if their specific project doesn’t make the first list of work to be done, he said.
“We hear you, but we definitely hear a lot of people,” Arkanoff said. “We want all to support the projects, even if we didn’t get to it this time.”