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Schools view renovation plans

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

Local construction and design firms presented their plans for Wabash City Schools to expand and update their facilities during the board meeting Monday night.

In an earlier meeting, Superintendent Jason Callahan explained to the board that their student population was rapidly expanding and their facilities would need to follow the same trend. In the 2014-15 school year, WCS submitted a total student count of 1,466, which dipped the next year by 54, most likely due to the closing of W.C. Mills Elementary School in 2014, Callahan said.

WCS counted 1,507 students in the 2016-17 school year and has been adding more since. Now that they’re at 1,581 students, according to Indiana Department of Education data, Callahan is asking the board to consider growing their facilities to match the growth of their students.

Callahan said the goal is to meet each building’s needs in terms of size and updated equipment without increasing the local tax rate, meaning they have a budget of $21 million for renovations.

Representatives from EMCOR Construction Company presented a list of necessary equipment updates, including an update to boiler systems and central air units. Callahan said it wasn’t “the sexiest topic,” but most of the utility equipment in EMCOR’s presentation was past its recommended lifespan. Callahan said it’s better to replace the equipment on a schedule rather than put off the repairs until they’re no longer in service.

“They key thing, though, with HVAC is that whatever we don’t do now, whether it’s one to three or three to five (years from now), at some point it has to be done. So that has to be part of our prioritization of projects as we move forward,” Callahan said to the board. 

Representatives from Barton Coe Vilamaa offered a proposal for facility expansion that highlighted the need for more classrooms, new entryways and possibly a newer, bigger gymnasium at the high school.

An additional four classrooms, a bathroom and larger common space was proposed to make LH Carpenter Early Learning Center the focal point for teaching at the preschool and kindergarten levels in the district. Barton Coe Vilamaa said timing and inflation may affect the bottom line, but all together, the cost of the early learning renovations to get kindergarten to LH Carpenter will be about $5.7 million.

At the Wabash Middle School and high school campus, the contracting company proposed a combined secure entrance at the center of the two schools. They also discussed adding a corridor for students to travel from one school to another safely. The project proposal also added new locker rooms, expanded the gym and added a Wabash Carnegie Library outreach center. In total, that proposal came in at about $20.6 million.

Then they shared a scaled down version of the $20 million project that included the outreach center and a potential new office for around $11 million total.

Callahan said nothing has been decided yet, but he wanted the presentations to come before the public to “start the conversation.”

The next scheduled Wabash school board meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, April 15 at Wabash Middle School.