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Residents hear elementary construction options

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Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school officials are considering spending up to $10 million to build a new elementary school or to renovate the current one. FILE PHOTO
Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school officials are considering spending up to $10 million to build a new elementary school or to renovate the current one. FILE PHOTO

Architects have two ideas for what to do about Indian Creek Elementary School, where parts of the building are between 28 and 75 years old and need to be upgraded.

The problems include sections of the school where water collects in locker rooms, the roof leaks, and space between some of the walls is large enough for bats and other animals to get through. Lancer+Beebe, an architectural company based in Indianapolis, has created a plan to renovate the two-story building by demolishing and rebuilding nearly 40,000 square feet of the school’s oldest sections. That’s roughly two-thirds of the building, though the plan would preserve the elementary school’s gymnasium.

Those renovations won’t solve all of the elementary school’s problems, including traffic that backs up as parents and school buses drop students off each morning, architects Terry Lancer and Mark Beebe said.

That’s why the pair recommend constructing a new, roughly 53,628-square-foot wing, for prekindergarten through second grade, at Indian Creek Intermediate School, which currently has Grades 3 through 5.

Adding a wing to the intermediate school would help ease the flow of traffic in the morning and would keep Indian Creek’s youngest students in a single-story building, which is what the Indiana Department of Education recommends for students through second grade, Lancer and Beebe said.

The cost of the two projects would be similar. Lancer and Beebe said renovating the existing elementary school would cost about $8.2 million, while adding a wing to the intermediate school would cost about $8.5 million.

Right now, no decision has been made about what to do about the elementary school. Lancer and Beebe made their presentation to about 70 Indian Creek residents and parents Monday night, many of whom indicated that students need a safer place to learn. The pair will make a similar presentation on Tuesday and will send all of the community’s feedback to the school board, which will decide what, if any, construction projects to approve.

Be informed

School officials will host a second presentation on potential construction projects for Indian Creek Elementary.

That presentation is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Indian Creek Middle School, 801 W. Indian Creek Drive, Trafalgar.

Lancer and Beebe started evaluating the elementary school about 18 months ago as part of a facilities assessment, reviewing which of the school district’s buildings needed to be upgraded. Earlier this school year, school board members said they wanted to review options for renovating or replacing the elementary school, which some members worried was too old.

While the elementary school can be renovated for slightly less than the cost of a new wing at the intermediate school, that won’t solve the problem of morning traffic. Because of the elementary school’s location, there’s no way to move the drop-off spots for parents and school buses to make them separate, Lancer and Beebe said.

Renovating the existing elementary school also means school officials would have to find temporary classrooms for students during the construction, which could take years, the pair said.

“The more we got into it, it just seems like there are a lot more negatives to a renovation,” Beebe said.

Midway through their presentation, Lancer and Beebe polled the crowd, asking for feedback on the existing elementary school. Using buzzers to indicate their preferences, most of the people attending the presentation indicated that the existing elementary school doesn’t meet educational and security standards, that students attending the elementary school need a better environment and that the plan to add a wing to the intermediate school seemed to be a practical option.

Most of the audience, when polled, also indicated they either didn’t have kids or didn’t have kids who attended the elementary school.

If the cost of a construction project is less than $10 million, school officials won’t have to ask for voters’ approval. Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson officials expect to finish paying off some of its debt this year, so the cost of the building project wouldn’t raise the tax rate, although it wouldn’t lower the tax rate either, Lancer and Beebe said.

Lancer added if the school board decides to add on to the intermediate school, no decision has been made about what could happen to the existing elementary school.

What’s wrong?

Here are some of the issues that need to be addressed in the different sections of Indian Creek Elementary School:

The 1939 portion

  • Water problems in locker rooms.
  • Soft floors in the music room.
  • Sections of the roof leak.
  • A water tube boiler is close to failing.
  • Heat system pumps need to be replaced.

The 1957 portion

  • Ramps are not up to code.
  • Restrooms have leaky pipes and poor air quality.
  • Gaps around exterior walls let bats and other animals in.
  • Brick is failing.
  • The mechanical plumbing system is beyond its lifespan.

The 1986 portion

  • Main office is separate from the main entrance, which is a security issue.
  • Ramps don’t meet code.
  • The media center needs a conference room.
  • Lack of storage space.
  • Inadequate Internet connectivity.
  • Inadequate electrical access.

Here is how the expenses for the two projects Lancer+Beebe discussed break down:

Renovating the elementary school

Demolition: $500,000

Site improvements: $100,000

Temporary classrooms: $300,000

Construction: $6 million

Renovations of existing sections: $1.3 million

Total: $8.2 million

Constructing a new wing at Indian Creek Intermediate School

Site improvements: $500,000

Construction: $8 million

Total: $8.5 million

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