A strategy is still in the works for Blackford County Schools to consolidate its structures, although the discovery of plumbing issues has actually slowed the procedure.
The board is discussing moving junior-high students into the high school, then moving students in Northside and Southside elementariness into the empty junior-high structure to create one Hartford City primary structure. Montpelier would remain the exact same. This would leave the district with three structures instead of five.
There hasn't been an official vote yet, however Superintendent Scot Croner and board vice president Scott Malott said board members seemed to concur this was the best strategy throughout a public conversation at Tuesday's board meeting.
Blackford High School, which was built to hold 1,500 students, would have the ability to accommodate around 280 additional junior-high students without any expansion. The combined elementary school would have between 675 and 725 students, which would be fairly big for a primary.
Croner stated he and the board haven't heard any concerns about the size. The present primary buildings lie within 2 square miles of the junior high, so students wouldn't have longer bus rides. And the district would save money by only serving one lunch and utilizing one secretarial, healthcare and custodial personnel, Croner stated.
Montpelier only has around 200 students in grades K-6. Croner said the board and neighborhood feel it's crucial to keep the school for its "historical importance," and to keep student's transportation time low.
"It is expensive for us to keep that structure however we’ve seen registration level off," he stated.
Decreasing enrollment is why the district started going over consolidation back in November 2014. Since 2006, the district has actually lost approximately 57 students each year, which is a more than $365,000 loss each year in financing from the state.
Croner anticipates registration will continue to decline, but ultimately even out at 1,600. In February there were 1,727 students in Blackford Schools grades K-12.
If approved, this consolidation strategy would leave the Northside and Southside primary structures open for the district to lease. Croner stated that a person could end up being the administration building, which is presently on County Road 200 South just south of Hartford City. Selling the structures is still an alternative on the table, but Croner said it would need to go to an entity that benefits the neighborhood.
Croner presented to the board a layout for the combined junior-high and high school back in September. Back then he was hoping for a decision to be made by December.
That didn't happen because concerns with the high school's plumbing were found early in the academic year. The school remains on a well and uses hard water, which caused a great deal of lime and calcium buildup. Croner stated most of the plumbing is from the structure's original building and construction in 1969.
Gradually the accumulation has gotten so bad that the personnel could not get a pencil through several two-inch pipelines, Croner said.
"We decided its best not to move students and then tear everything up," Mallott stated.
The board has actually received bids from business for the repairs. Most consist of more than just plumbing work, like including a brand-new HVAC, which would cost approximately $10 million. Malott said the board most likely won't tackle all of the tasks.
Any brand-new financial obligation the district takes on will be contributed to present financial obligation. Croner said they can refinance and include 5 years to an existing 20-year bond that's close to being settled. This indicates taxpayers will not see their taxes enhance.
Since the consolidation is now waiting for building and construction, Malott stated they do not have a firm timeline. Croner wishes to move junior high students before the 2017-18 year, and move primary students the year after that.
"We want to do it as quickly as possible, however reasonably possible," Malott stated. "We ‘e still going to hear (public) input, it’s not like the door’s closed we are moving on with it."
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