Work set to start on new school

Portable classrooms will be used until Center Grove elementary is complete

Work to build a new Center Grove elementary school could begin as soon as this spring.

No one started the process to send the $42 million project to a public vote, meaning the new school can move forward immediately, Center Grove superintendent Rich Arkanoff said. Under state law, the new school did not need to be approved in a public referendum because the school district can afford the debt for the new building without going outside its tax levy or significantly increasing taxes.

If the project had gone to referendum and been approved, taxpayers would have paid for the debt for the new school outside of their tax caps, which limit their property tax bill to a percentage of their property’s value. School officials have said they can afford the new school without significantly changing the tax rate.

The school district is now working to finalize contracts with both an architecture firm and a construction management firm, which will help design and plan the project, officials said.

The goal is to have the new school, which will have room for up to 800 students, open by the 2019-20 school year.

But a final decision on that timeline will depend on how many children enroll for kindergarten next school year, Arkanoff said.

If that number increases again, as it has in recent years — about 4 percent per year — that project will need to move forward more quickly, he said.

In the meantime, work can begin to design the building. And some site work, such as for utilities, can begin on the property off Morgantown Road in southern White River Township, where the school is planned, assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

Before then, the school district is also preparing to bring in portable classrooms to have enough space for the continued growing enrollment.

Officials expect to need four portable classrooms next school year, and two to six more the following school year, Arkanoff said.

Exactly where those classrooms will be needed has not been decided yet, he said. But preparation work for the portable classrooms will need to begin before the end of this school year, he said.

The new elementary school is needed as the school district’s enrollment has grown every year except two years for the last 65 years, school officials have said.

A large amount of that growth is coming from the southern portion of White River Township, and is expected to continue with new subdivisions containing more than 700 homes being planned off County Road 144 in Bargersville.

Construction of the new school will take about 22 months, Long said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.