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January 29, 2014

Bonding over projects: NA-FC schools hopes to pass funding for wish list

General obligation bond totals $6 million for various projects

NEW ALBANY — Synthetic turf for football fields, new science labs at a high school and several other projects were part of a pitch to approve a $6 million bond to the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp.’s board of trustees’ work session on Tuesday.

The general obligation bond proposal — separate from a $63 million referendum the district hopes to pursue — would fund seven projects to improve facilities across the district while slightly increasing current tax rates.

Brad Snyder, deputy superintendent, brought in teachers, coaches and school administrators to justify the projects from which they would benefit.

The board will review the bond at its Feb. 10 meeting, but it heard from several district employees who hope they sign off on the bond.

100 percent synthetic

For the $1.25 million project to put synthetic turf on football fields at Floyd Central and New Albany high schools, coaches and others took the podium to testify in favor of replacing the grass fields.

Charlie Fields, New Albany High School’s head football coach, said as his program grows, the grass takes more of a beating. But he also said New Albany and Floyd Central are two of the few Class 6A schools in the state without synthetic turf, which hurts recruiting and other factors.

“This is a need, not a want,” Fields said. “We talk about competing for other students, I’ve had several parents ... mention they look at the fields as one of the things they talk about when they want to move and bring athletes to their facilities. We have substandard facilities for a 6A football program.”

He said the field actually serves five teams — three at the high school and two at Hazelwood Middle School. With that many students using it, he said synthetic turf can take more abuse and costs less to maintain.

Brian Glesing, head coach for Floyd Central’s football team, said a new turf field would serve about 250 or 300 students if it’s installed on his campus, some of those coming from Highland Hills Middle School.

He said it would also allow the school to host more summer camps and other programs, which generate income.

“Right now, we’re very limited,” Glesing said. “We’re limited by weather and field conditions, especially in the spring and summer. All of those things would benefit our football program.”

But athletic teams aren’t the only ones who would see a positive impact. Harold Yankey, director of Floyd Central’s marching band, said its invitational competition would probably see an increase in participant schools if it installed synthetic turf. He said that means bringing in more money that band boosters wouldn’t have to make up for.

He said Jeffersonville High School used to put on an invitational competition that brought in about $20,000 a year for its marching band program. One of the factors that ended the contest was its field, which didn’t have synthetic turf.

Between getting uniforms muddy, putting more wear and tear on equipment and limiting electrical equipment after rain, Yankey said it would make life easier for students, parents and instructors.

Technology

Between three separate technology projects, another $975,000 would fund SMART boards in elementary and middle schools, audio enhancement for classrooms and possibly fund devices for low-income students when the district moves to its version of a 1:1 initiative, which puts a computer in the hands of each student.

As the district mulls a bring-your-own-device program, it’s examining contractors who can help with professional development and other needs before it’s implemented. But the district will have to supply devices for students who come from families who can’t afford to purchase their own.

Louis Jensen, director of high schools, said he expects teachers will go through a full year of professional development to ensure proper use of technology in classrooms.

But Mark Boone, board member, said he hopes the vendor it chooses for those services will help them select cost-effective devices that meet instructional needs.

“I want to make sure those guys are giving services and the trainers aren’t saying ‘we’re going to buy an iPad because it’s sexy,’” Boone said. “It may be, but we’re trying to teach kids English/language arts, not how to play Candy Crush.”

The remaining $625,000 would outfit classrooms in elementary and middle schools with interactive white boards if they don’t already have them. Jessica Waters, principal at Hazelwood Middle School, said she has elementary students coming into her school who try to interact with regular whiteboards in the same way they do with SMART Boards in their elementary classes, only shocked to discover they aren’t the same thing.

Other projects

• Another $2 million project would create three new science labs at New Albany High School.

The proposal would bump out part of the school along Vincennes Street to make more room for bigger, more modern science and technology labs. Stephanie Lone, the school’s science team leader, said it’s difficult to run all of their students through one chemistry lab, especially since curriculum requirements make it difficult to squeeze every student through in a week’s time.

• Improvements to Mt. Tabor Elementary School’s kitchen, cafeteria and awnings — tied for the second most expensive project — were priced at $1.25 million.

• A $375,000 project to install a natural gas line at Floyd Central High School was also outlined. Snyder said the switch from propane to natural gas could save the district about $100,000 annually.

GO Bond requirements

Snyder also told the board he may have confused them with how much the district can get in a GO bond at a time — last year, he said he may have left them with the impression that it could only issue $2 million in GO bonds per year without the state becoming involved.

In fact, he said, it can issue several bonds at a maximum of $2 million each in the same year as long as they’re for different projects.

In this case, he said it would divide the proposals into five projects this year, paying them off in the next three years.

With 6 percent coming off the tax rate for school bonds this year in the county, this bond would replace what’s coming off with 6.6 percent.

He said the increase is negligible and most homeowners won’t likely notice the change in their bill, especially with so many other factors like assessed value coming into play.

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