Center Grove approves new school construction offer

A new Center Grove elementary school is expected to cost less than expected, but what the final cost will be isn’t yet known.

The Center Grove school board approved spending $23.1 million on construction of the new Walnut Grove Elementary School, set to open in 2019. Center Grove originally had budgeted $25 million for that work, assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

Because bids came in under budget, Center Grove is able to fund every planned part of the project, including $368,000 for a 200-kilowatt solar energy system the school will use to help lower utility costs and to teach students about solar energy, getting a roof with a longer warranty and higher quality building materials, he said.

“This will be good for extending the life of the building and protecting the taxpayers’ investment,” Long said.

The solar panel field will be the first for a Center Grove school and could end up reducing the school’s electric costs by anywhere from 40 to 80 percent, officials said. Teachers also will have access to real-time data about how much energy the panels are creating and can then teach students about renewable energy and environmental stewardship.

The total cost of Walnut Grove Elementary school, which includes furniture and landscaping, was estimated at $42 million, but the school now expects the final figure to be at least several million dollars lower, Long said.

The final price tag won’t be known until all the costs are finalized, he said.

Site work at the elementary school began earlier this fall. The plan is to be open for the 2019-20 school year, and officials have said construction would take about 22 months. AECOM Hunt is the general contractor for the project. The school was designed by Indianapolis-based Lancer + Beebe.

School officials approved designing and building the 116,000-square-foot school earlier this year. The new school is set to have 45 classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria and kitchen, large group instruction room and space for offices and conference rooms for staff.

A large part of Center Grove’s recent growth has been in the southern portion of White River Township. The new school is being built off Morgantown Road, south of County Road 144, near where at least three new subdivisions with hundreds of homes are being developed. The school would be the furthest south in the Center Grove school district. Currently, Maple Grove Elementary School, off Whiteland Road, is the furthest south. The school district had gotten the property for the new school in a land swap with a local developer.

Walnut Grove is the first new Center Grove school since Maple Grove Elementary opened in 2006. School officials have also said they are planning an expansion to Center Grove Middle School Central in the next several years, have land set aside for a future middle school and are continuing to look at plans for improvements to the high school.

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.