CLARK COUNTY — A community task force will explore options for future facility projects in Greater Clark County Schools, which could include the replacement of existing school buildings.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard a presentation from Lancer + Beebe, an Indianapolis-based architecture firm, regarding findings in a recent facilities study.
The rough draft of the study outlines structural issues at buildings in Greater Clark and possible solutions for improvements.
The facilities study shows problems in multiple areas, including the renovation or replacement of older schools in the district.
“We have some buildings in the corporation that are nearing 60, 70 years old, and we’re getting to that point where we may have to consider totally renovating some buildings or replacing buildings,” said Greater Clark Superintendent Mark Laughner.
The board also met for a Tuesday work session that delved into the facility study and the plans for a task force that will draw on input from community members.
The district is in the process of forming the task force, which will consist of members from each community in Greater Clark, according to Laughner.
“What we will do is we will really dig in with the task force — that will be made up of community members — into the facilities study to where we try to prioritize what needs to be done in this district over the next 5, 7, 10 years,” he said.
The task force will make suggestions for projects and timelines, and the administration in a work session in mid-July with the board will try to create a five-year facility plan.
Architect Misha Belyayev of Lancer + Beebe presented a draft of the Greater Clark facilities study at Tuesday’s meeting. The study is still being finalized.
The facility assessment looked at 22 buildings in the district, including all of the schools. The study focuses on patterns across the district and at individual schools related to issues ranging from ADA compliance to security.
A number of school buildings have issues labeled in the “red” category, which means failing, and “orange,” which means poor.
This includes a number of older schools in the district.
The facility study says one possible option to address issues would be to replace what is now the Jonathan Jennings Elementary building in Charlestown with a new elementary school.
Another suggestion includes the replacement of Thomas Jefferson Elementary and Wilson Elementary in Jeffersonville with one new elementary school.
Those three elementary schools are more than 60 years old, according to Laughner.
Classroom additions to Riverside Elementary and Northaven Elementary are among the possible solutions Lancer + Beebe identified for facility problems, as well as renovations to Charlestown Middle School and replacing the Jeffersonville High School pool.
The study also discusses the potential for security upgrades, improved HVAC/energy savings, improved air quality, electrical upgrades, restroom renovations, kitchen/cafeteria renovations, plumbing upgrades/repairs, accessibility upgrades, roof work and other projects across the district in future school years.
As the district eyes facility improvements, Laughner said the district is committed to stay “tax neutral” and keep the tax rate no higher than $1.10.
Laughner said he is hoping the district will be able to finance facility projects in future years through general issue bonds and the debt service fund.
The administration’s goal is to avoid a referendum, he said.
“I made the commitment to keep the tax rate at $1.10 and let the assessed value guide what work gets done,” he said.
Laughner said the district has the capacity to complete projects without raising taxes as the district’s assessed value rises with growth in the area.
The first task force meeting will take place May 26. The group will meet four times over the next couple of months.
After the five-year plan is completed, Greater Clark will share the plan with each community in the district.
Greater Clark has invited about 70 community members to be part of the task force, Laughner said.
“There’s a lot of things that need to be done in this district, and we’ve deferred way too much maintenance and way too many items over the years,” Laughner said. “And I say that from experience. I’ve been in this district for 17 years and I’ve watched it happen.”
“Now it’s time to figure out how we plan to fix it and how we plan to make it better, so I look forward to having those discussions not only with everyone in the [board room] but also our community members.”