School board aims to balance needs and costs

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

The Greencastle-Antrim school board Facilities Committee met with the architects last Thursday, to try to put a handle on needs versus affordability for the district’s building project.

Eric Holtzman, Jim Winslow and Ken Haines spoke with EI Associates personnel, including senior vice president Mark Barnhardt. An initial $80 million pricetag was out of the question, board members have agreed, but they still face determining which improvements and expansion measures must be undertaken to handle growing enrollment.

“We don’t have much of a choice,” said Holtzman. “We need to reduce class sizes. We have to add classrooms and staff.”

Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover said the ideal situation would be to house kindergarten and first grade in the primary school, second and third in the elementary school, fourth through sixth in a new building, seventh and eighth in the middle school, ninth passing between the two secondary buildings, and 10 to 12 in the high school.

“That’s ideal educationally, but we can’t afford it.”

The district needed 20 to 25 additional classrooms, he said. Five already could be found in the middle school through rearranging and remodeling rooms.

Director of education Dr. Bob Crider told the committee the administration needed to know soon what the board supported as far as class size. He wanted to maintain the quality of instruction and keep programming as it was, including the extracurricular opportunities for students. Middle school principal Mark Herman also wanted to retain all of his programs.

Holtzman said it could mean barebones renovations to maximize PlanCon reimbursement for work on the middle and high schools, and classrooms could be added between the two buildings. That would eliminate one plan to put a master cafeteria and library in the space.

Barnhardt said critical work on the secondary buildings, modernizing the mechanical and electrical systems, would be $30 million. He also wanted to know how much funding the board would authorize; then the needs could be prioritized.

Holtzman said by 2017 an annual wrapround debt of $1.5 million would be done, freeing up some money, but a mill increase would be necessary. The Finance Committee was also holding sessions, and the school board as a whole would figure out how much the district could afford to spend.

EI design plans have been created incorporating full-day kindergarten, 25 students per classroom, 350 students per elementary grade, 325 students per the upper grades, and projections of 800 to 1,100 new students arriving in the next decade.