School Board approves construction of classrooms at Jefferson-Craig

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The Switzerland County School Corporation is on the fast track to new classrooms at Jeff Craig Elementary School after approval of a $2 million project on Thursday, June 18th.

The special meeting was held in the library of Jeff Craig after building principal Tony Spoores gave school board members and teachers a tour of the current facilities.

Board members Nancy Peters and Joe Bennett gave the facilities committee recommendation for the addition, which will include the building of 10 new classrooms. It will be nine additional rooms, as one current room will be lost to serve as a mechanical room.

The new rooms will be added to the back of the building which will mean the relocation of two playground areas.

Superintendent Mike Jones reiterated current needs pointed out during the tour, including two special education classes which are currently held in the middle school wing.

Another area of concern is the music area, which was the cafeteria at one time. Students pass through the music room to get to the computer lab, where acuity testing takes place. Others pass through the lab to get to a storage room/closet now used for title students.

The office area and nurses clinic need work as well.

Jones shared that a 2010 feasibility study projected 1,540 students by 2021 but that number has been reached five years sooner – and could be over 1,600 by 2019-20. Growing enrollment is shown in three sections of kindergarten through second grade and an additional third grade class this coming year.

Peters said the board was being hammered on locker rooms for the football team. Bennett has received kudos for putting education first.

Jeff Craig is the top priority with a middle school connector needed next.

Board member Jill Cord questioned that there had not been enough community input, including the special meeting just three days after the regular board meeting.

Other concerns included the tax burden on community and a reminder of changes that had to be made in problems with the middle school project.

Bennett contested that there had been ample opportunities for input including a pair of public meetings and discussion at the April school board meeting.

Peters expressed a need to hire a construction consultant (20-30 hours) to help out in the preliminary planning.

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Architect Terry Lancer of Lancer & Beebe, LLC presented the conceptual drawings which he called “the most economical design to add classroom space.” The rooms are the Department of Education required 900 square feet and will have two restrooms in the wing.

Cord concerns continued over current classrooms originally built in 1954 (some at 600 square feet).

The projected construction cost is $1.7 million including relocating playgrounds with extra money possible for office and music areas as alternative bids.

A total of $119,000 is planned for architectural fees, including civil engineering, structural engineering, plumbing, HVAC and electric.

Another $20,000 is projected for reimbursables with finance costs listed at $85,000 with $76,000 for loose equipment and contingency (half of that for new chairs and desks according to Lancer).

Next up is design development at the July 20th board meeting.

Construction documents will be presented at the August 17th meeting; with bidding expected at the September 21st meeting and construction starting in October.

The aggressive timetable will allow for site work and construction including being closed in before winter, Lancer confidently added, with completion in June.

One classroom will be out of commission.

Cord – a retired 30 year teacher and administrator at the school – made the vote unanimous after Lancer agreed his first action would be to check the structural integrity of the original building.

Financing was discussed including General Obligation Bond or lease rental bonds. Currently the school’s debt service is paid by the school endowment.

A five year bond would amount to .0876 – or $34.84 per year on median income home or $19.49 for 10 years or $14.52 for 15 years, with no endowment money used, according to an Umbaugh representative.

Funding discussed included possible use of rainy day funds, school endowment and capital projects.

Lancer was paid $50,000 last year and has a complete set of plans for the football locker rooms which have been replaced as a priority.

The plan had nothing but support by teachers and employees who gave a round of applause after the board’s approval.

Tumbling given OK

Tumbling classes will be allowed at Switzerland County High School once proof of insurance is presented.

The Switzerland County School Board gave approval for Hannah Cook at the special meeting. Classes had been halted after questions were raised by the board at its regular monthly meeting Monday, June 15.

Cook, a certified tumbling instructor, reported the class started with five to six but has grown to nearly 40. Cost of the class is $40 and money has been used to purchase mats.

Board president Wayne Daugherty said it was good all Switzerland County kids

The board had approved use of the school for a wrestling camp on Monday.

In personnel matters, Russell Wiggins as hired as high school biology teacher.

- Tim Hillman