Construction will start on Center Grove’s new elementary school later this year.
But administrators and the school board are already looking toward the future, considering the population growth the district is expecting in the next decade. Discussions have started about projects to increase capacity at the high school, as well as the eventual need for another elementary school.
During a work session Thursday, school officials presented information about the biggest needs and priorities Center Grove facilities are facing. The focus was on renovations and updates on the elementary and middle school levels, though the board also touched on work that will be needed at the high school to increase capacity by 1,000 students by 2024.
The current enrollment at the high school is 2,500, nearing the building’s capacity of 2,800.
By planning for these projects now, the district can be prepared for when the projects inevitably have to be done, said Richard Arkanoff, Center Grove superintendent.
“We’re growing so fast, we’re going to need to build these things, or else we’re not going to have places for kids to go to school,” he said. “We want to be able to plan it out, so that we can do it as fiscally responsibly as possible.”
Enrollment at Center Grove has been steadily growing since 2012. This year, 8,180 students attended Center Grove schools; projections by the district are that by the 2020-2021 school year, that number will grow to 8,405.
By 2025, enrollment is predicted to be 9,010.
The district is in the midst of a four-month planning process for the next 10 years in the face of those numbers. No official actions have been taken by the school board, but the goal is to be ready to do so in the years moving forward, Arkanoff said.
Arkanoff presented a timeline of when potential work would need to be done in order to stay in front of an increase in students.
The capacity of the current high school is 2,800 people, which the district is expected to reach by 2024, Arkanoff said. By renovating the school within the current footprint, the existing high school could be expanded to cater to 3,800 students.
Greater detail will be provided to the board during a work session in June, Arkanoff said. A presentation in July will focus on financing the projects.
Estimates predict that a seventh elementary school will be needed for the 2026-2027 school year, meaning the district would have to start the process to get that built by 2023, Arkanoff said.
“We don’t know what the overall dollar amount is going to be here, but you can take a gander that it’s not going to be cheap. There are going to be multi-million dollars of work done at the high school, and all the work we just talked about,” Arkanoff said.
Other priorities discussed include smaller projects at the existing elementary schools, said Bill Long, assistant superintendent.
Additional restrooms and other renovations at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, an expanded gymnasium and cafeteria at Sugar Grove Elementary School and a modified entrance into Center Grove Middle School North are some of the projects that will need to be completed.
The priorities list was generated by a facility assessment done by architectural firm CSO in 2011, as well as discussions with school principals, Long said.
At the same time the district is planning for its building needs, school officials also are grappling with how to redraw district lines with the new Walnut Grove Elementary School opening in 2019.
The school board voted Thursday to hire a consulting firm to help in the effort.
“Because the upcoming redistricting has the potential to touch every elementary school and a large number of students, and could be very complicated, we feel their expertise and experience will be a great benefit to the school corporation and community,” Long said.
Cooperative Strategies of Hilliard, Ohio, will assist local officials with the planning process, assembling a redistricting committee and analyzing population growth and maps of the district to come up with a new district plan.
The company also will help the school district with community presentations and feedback. Center Grove will pay the company $53,650 for the work.
“This is probably going to be the largest redistricting for this corporation in many, many years. We want to make sure we do this right. We also know that we’re going to be growing still, and this company will help us look into the future,” Arkanoff said.
Planning for the future
Center Grove schools are preparing for the next 10 years of building needs throughout the district:
June: The school board will learn about the top building priorities at the high school.
July: A work session will tie together priorities at the elementary, middle and high schools to discuss financing the work needed to be done.
July or August: Start of construction for Walnut Grove Elementary School, the district’s sixth elementary school.
2018: Estimated start time for a project to increase capacity at Center Grove middle schools.
Fall 2019: Walnut Grove Elementary School opens
2021: Work begins on renovation to increase the high school’s capacity from 2,800 to 3,800.
2023: The process to build a seventh elementary school begins.
2024: Additional space at the high school is finished.
2026: District’s seventh elementary school is finished.