Center Grove plans growth

As part of a plan to take over the task of providing special education services for 1,000 students, Center Grove is planning to spend nearly $2 million to add new classrooms, sensory rooms and a medical treatment area specially designed for students with special needs.

Construction to add onto the school district’s professional resource center is set to begin in August and be done by January 2017, in time for Center Grove to take over special education services from Special Services of Johnson County and Surrounding Schools, with which the school district ended its contract.

After Center Grove officials decided last year to hire their own special education staff and oversee their own program, administrators determined an addition would need to be built. Four new classrooms, two sensory rooms and a reception and office area will be added onto the building that used to be Maple Grove Elementary, but now houses Center Grove’s Alternative Academy, the preschool and office space, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

The added 7,400 square feet of space is needed because the school district does not have the equipment needed to provide services for all special education students at this time, Arkanoff said.

Last year, Center Grove officials decided to end the contract with Special Services of Johnson County and Surrounding Schools, a local co-op that provides special education services for students at seven school districts. Two years ago, Clark-Pleasant school district left Special Services. Center Grove is currently the largest school district that is part of Special Services, and officials wanted to provide their own special education programming, Arkanoff has said.

Center Grove will need to hire its own special education staff, using money that in the past was paid to Special Services. The school district also will have more flexibility with scheduling and eliminate multiple school bus trips to Special Services per week, which will save money in transportation, Arkanoff and assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

The contract with Special Services ends in summer 2017, which is when Center Grove will begin providing occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy services to its 1,000 students who receive special education services.

But in order to offer all of the programming needed for their special education students, the school needs more classrooms specifically designed for children with special needs.

The classroom space will fit a range of needs, for anywhere from eight to 10 students with severe disabilities to as many as 40 children, Arkanoff said. The rooms also will have sensory rooms, which have special lighting and objects that allow students to use different senses to grow in their learning and personal development, and cool down rooms, which are areas where agitated or frustrated students can relax and calm themselves before returning to the classroom.

Designs of the addition will be completed this spring, and construction is slated to begin in August, according to the contract with CSO Architects.

The additional space is slated to cost $1.6 million, according to the CSO Architects contract. In order to pay for the addition, the school district will take out a bond of more than $1.9 million, which will cover contingency costs.

Another $112,000 will be paid to CSO Architects for the design and construction documents, which will be paid from a different bond that Center Grove took out in 2013 to upgrade Center Grove High School, Long said.

School officials do not expect the tax rate to change because other debt is being paid off, Center Grove Chief Financial Officer Paul Gabriel said.

“This project has been part of our planning for a while, as we have looked at our tax rate and the future of our tax rate,” Gabriel said.

By the numbers

Center Grove officials approved a new addition onto the Professional Resource Center for special education students. Here’s a look at what is included:

7,400 square feet

8 restrooms, two in each classroom

4 classrooms

2 sensory rooms

2 storage areas

1 treatment room

1 conference room

1 reception and office area

The cost for the project: $1,600,000

SOURCE: Center Grove school board presentation