Superintendent Jones says safety is reason for renovations on school grounds

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There’s been a lot of talk this summer in Switzerland County about all the stuff happening at the schools in Vevay. Lots of dirt and other things have all been moved around, and it’s causing a lot of confusion.

Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth “Itsy” Jones took some time to talk about that at Monday night’s school board meeting.

Right now, it looks messy, but Elizabeth Jones said “once it’s done it’s going to be here for years and we’re going to be so glad we did it.”

Some have wondered why there’s a road being built behind the schools. Elizabeth Jones said,”It’s a definite safety issue that’s been a long time coming,” she said.

In the past, students have boarded the buses in front of the school where she pointed out walkers, parents and buses often all came together at the same time. Now, school buses will load and unload students behind the schools, and she said that separates the movement of people arriving and departing the school to different locations on the property. Addionally, parking for students will be on a newly-constructed lot west of Switzerland County High School, which she said also puts them away from congestion with the buses.

“This will provide more safety for the students,” she said.

The new road connects the buses to the highway from a totally different path than all of the other traffic around the school, which she said is not only good for safety but also good for bus security.

Bus parking will be moved to the northwest corner of the new road, located a slight distance behind the new administration building. “We have had trouble with theft and vandalism” with the buses in their current location, Elizabeth Jones said. “The buses will now be moved away from the old administration building and put behind a fence.”

Elizabeth Jones said the new road also opens up land behind the schools for other uses. “All that property was there (and owned by the school corporation) but no one could use it,” because there was no way to get to it. “Now, it’s opened up and we have access to it,” she said.

They have plans in the future to build tennis courts and a second soccer field on the land behind the new road. Right now, she said the money isn’t available for those projects, but said both would benefit the schools as well as the community.

“There is no facility for tennis in Switzerland County. With a facility, we could teach tennis and it’s something students could maintain for life. Wrestling, swimming, golf and tennis are life sports, and our kids all need to be taught life sports.”

Likewise, she said a second soccer field is needed because the one that’s there now gets a lot of use by all levels of soccer in the community, and because of that demand it would definitely be beneficial to have two. “It would be nice for them to practice on one field and have a higher quality soccer field for games,” she said.

Board member Wayne Daugherty said he only sees good from all of this work. “We’re beginning to look like we’re in the 21st century with our programs in the county.”

Because of the construction of the new road, the Jefferson-Craig Elementary School’s playground equipment was moved and in the process the old playground equipment was destroyed. “We had that playground equipment inspected and we were advised not to re-use it,” Elizabeth Jones said. “The metal had rusted from the weather and the stress seams” made the playground equipment unsafe. “We don’t want to give away unsafe equipment,” she said.

There have also been improvements to Jefferson-Craig Elementary School, which Elizabeth Jones said is a completion of the improvements that were made there last summer. “Last year we made major renovations there (that created greater energy efficiency), but they were not ones that could be seen,” she said. This summer carpeted areas have been replaced with tile because tile has been deemed healthier than carpet. “Tile is better than carpet in controlling germs,” she said. Additionally, new windows have been installed.

In another portion of the meeting, Jefferson-Craig principal Rhonda Pennington submitted a request for the Switzerland County Endowment to fund painting the hallways and lockers of the school. “I can’t wait for the students to walk through the door and see the facility,” she said. Painting the hallways and lockers “would be the finishing touch to give it a complete facelift,” she said. The school board approved the request, but it still must face a decision by the endowment board.

Work on the new administration building is nearing completion, Elizabeth Jones said. “It looks ready and I’m anxious, but we’re not moving in there until it’s ready,” she said. Fiber optics still must be installed and she said they’re not moving in there until everything is in place with computers and phone lines all hooked up so all is running smoothly.

THE SIXTH GRADERS: Last spring, Elizabeth Jones proposed that sixth graders, who have in recent years attended the middle school, remain in the elementary school. “Test scores were showing that the sixth graders were failing” in the middle school setting and they would achieve better academically in an elementary school setting, she said.

However, she said Switzerland County Elementary School is already too crowded and does not have room for the sixth graders. Because of that, the board voted in March that last year’s SCES fifth graders would attend Jefferson-Craig during the 2010-2011 school year.

The decision was a controversial one, and Elizabeth Jones said they are working toward a better solution. “Jefferson-Craig has “disportionately lower number of students,” she said, and easily has room to house all sixth graders in the county. Still, Elizabeth Jones said they must find a way to balance the “decreasing numbers at Jefferson-Craig and increasing numbers at Switzerland County Elementary. We need to figure out a way to equalize that.”

Educational Services Company of Indianapolis will be sending consultants Don Dyck and Jerry Moore to evaluate the situation over the next few months and she’s hoping that they’ll have a report on their findings by the end of the year. “We hope to give a recommendation before the new (calendar) year,” she said.

ENDOWMENT REQUESTS: In addition to Rhonda Pennington’s request for painting lockers and walls at Jefferson-Craig Elementary School, there were the following requests:

Repair of some windows at Switzerland County Middle School due to a problem with leaks that have allowed water through, replacement of a damaged curb at Switzerland County Elementary School and purchase of a new freezer at Switzerland County High School. Additionally, there was a request to purchase 20 stations of the Waterford Math and Science program for Switzerland County Elementary School. The board approved all of the requests, but they still must be approved by the endowment board before they can be funded.