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New Indian Creek Elementary gets approval

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A mother worries each day about her third-grade child who has asthma, but those concerns are heightened when she sends him to his elementary school because of air quality.

Her husband works for the White River Township Fire Department and has participated in school shooter training, and he has concerns over the safety of the entrance to Indian Creek Elementary School.

Five residents spoke during a Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson Schools public hearing on an addition to the intermediate school that would allow the elementary school to move there. The school board voted 3-2 to approve the $10 million project.

Board members Kathy Vest, Judy Misiniec and Greg Waltz voted for the project. Kevin Parks and Joey Dallas voted against the project.

Parks said he opposes the project because the district spent $1 million on upgrades to the elementary school, and he doesn’t think the building is in that bad of shape. He’s also heard concerns from downtown business owners on what would happen to the elementary school building when the addition at the intermediate school is built.

Part of the elementary school building is only 20 years old and should not be discarded. Upgrades to the building would make more financial sense, Dallas said.

Juliana Saucier has a third-grade student at Indian Creek Elementary School. Her son has asthma and has to take four treatments a day. The air quality in the old school makes his asthma worse, she said.

“I’d like to think my child has a healthy quality of air when you send him to school,” she said. “That’s something a parent should not have to worry about.”

The 53,628-square-foot addition would include 22 classrooms, an art room, a media room, two special education classrooms, administration offices and a 6,600-square-foot gym. The construction would add a separate area for buses and parents to pick up students. Currently, parents have to line the neighboring streets of the elementary school and wait for the buses to leave.

The $10 million project would not raise taxes because debt for previous high school renovations will be paid off at the same time the school district would borrow money for the new project, interim superintendent Becky Courtney-Knight said.

In 2009, the school district proposed spending $26 million to renovate the elementary, middle, and high schools, but voters rejected the proposal in a public referendum. As long as the project remains at a cost of $10 million or less, a referendum is not required.

Resident Sam Hoagland Sr. said a referendum should be done for the school project.

Residents can still oppose the project.

Opponents of the school project have 30 days to collect 100 signatures of registered voters who live in the school district. Once those signatures are verified by the county clerk, a petition race would begin.

Both opponents and supporters of the project would gather signatures, and whichever side has the most wins, Courtney-Knight said.

Parks expects the 100 necessary signatures will be gathered based on residents he has talked to. But he’s not sure opponents would get enough signatures to win the petition race, he said.

Kelly Neal used to work in the elementary school and said the air quality in the building contributed to her having to undergo sinus surgery.

“We have to be thinking about the health and safety of our children,” Neal said. “That should matter to all of us. It should be automatic and not a concern.”

Dale Saucier is the training chief for the White River Township Fire Department and has concerns over the school’s entrance. He has participated in active shooting drills and said the school’s entrance is not secure. The doors to the building are locked, and visitors must be let in by someone in the main office. But once inside the building, visitors see a hallway that has a rope blocking it and a sign pointing them to the main office.

“Once you get in those doors you can go anywhere,” Saucier said.

After the construction, the school’s entrance would lead to the main office, eliminating the ability for visitors to quickly get to classrooms in the school, architect Terry Lancer said.

The current building has several ramps that are too steep under the American with Disabilities Act, and most restrooms are not accessible. Those problems would be resolved with the one-level addition, Lancer said.

The school district would have several options on what to do with the current school building, including allowing the Hensley Township trustee to have the building for recreational use, allowing a charter school to move in after two years or continue to use it for educational activities, board attorney Roger Young said.

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