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WCS answers renovation questions

INFO NIGHT: Superintendent Jason Callahan gives a public presentation on the possible projects facing Wabash City Schools at the Honeywell Center on Monday night.

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

Wabash City Schools hosted an information night at the Honeywell Center to answer public questions on possible renovations taking place within the district.

Superintendent Jason Callahan presented a series of projects up for discussion, all of which he said were separate from one another and would require separate actions. Wabash City Schools is negotiating projects and trying to do so without raising the tax rate. Callahan said their estimated budget is approximately $21 million for renovations and equipment updates across the district.

Callahan presented a list of necessary updates that included asphalt maintenance, roof repairs at Wabash High School, a new chiller at Wabash Middle School, a gym floor at OJ Neighbors, replacement ceiling tiles and smoke detectors at LH Carpenter, and a new fence on the high school softball field.

While Callahan said “this is project one,” he emphasized that a separate project to install a Wabash Carnegie Library Outreach Center at the high school felt like a priority. The renovation would include a “Starbucks style atmosphere” for student and community access, while also creating a central office between the middle and high schools and expanding the visitor’s section of the gym to host future sectional games.

He said the change to the gym would meet Title IX and American Disability Act standards, and the addition of the outreach center would build on the relationship between the district and the Wabash community.

“It’s all about building relationships,” he said. “That’s one of our pillars and it builds on our mission to create opportunity and equity for all.”

Other projects included additional classrooms at LH Carpenter to turn it into an early childhood learning center that houses preschool and kindergarten students. Callahan also presented the idea of a new turf field for both football and soccer events as well as an expansion of the six-lane track to eight lanes.

Those in attendance Monday night seemed receptive to the projects. OJ Neighbors teachers Beth Phillipy and Alicia Draper said the addition of the new media center would be a suitable area for childrens activities that could occupy younger siblings while families attend high school sporting events. The board also discussed the possibility of having Ivy Tech Community College classes on the high school campus, “eliminating barriers to higher education,” Callahan said.

Callahan also said student involvement will be key in the decision making process for the list of current projects. He said issues, such as outdoor lighting and safety, have been brought to administrators via the Students Safety Committee run by Student Resource Officer Sam Hipskind.

Some proposed changes, such as the turfed field, raised concerns for board members and students. Board members asked what the cost and upkeep of the turf would be, to which Business Manager Matt Stone said the change to turf would save the district more than $30,000 annually and eliminate the need to mow, purchase paint and other items required to care for a grass field. He and Callahan also said the turf has a 20-year lifespan and would benefit physical education classes, multiple athletic teams as well as marching band. High school junior Jon Maiztegui is involved in soccer and track at Wabash High School, and said the eight-lane track would be beneficial, but the soccer team losing a place to call their own feels like a step backwards.

“I don’t think the soccer players would like the change because we’re losing our field,” he said.

Mayor Scott Long was present for the public presentation and reiterated Callahan’s comments on building community relationships. He said programs, especially the developing early childhood learning center at LH Carpenter, would be essential to building a stronger family community.

Callahan said the board would begin making decisions regarding the list of projects at their next board meeting on Monday, April 15.