TIPP CITY — The Tipp City school board hosted a community forum Tuesday night to present information about the district’s facility needs and gather community feedback.
The event, which was held at L.T. Ball Intermediate school, was attended by about 100 parents, teachers and other community members. District staff outlined a proposal to begin renovating two of the district’s buildings as soon as this summer and to plan for the construction of a new school for pre-kindergarten through third grade sometime in the future.
In March 2016, voters rejected a bond issue to build a new kindergarten through third grade facility on the current Broadway site. The measure was rejected 63 percent to 37 percent.
“It failed. It failed terribly,” community relations coordinator Liz Robbins said. “We needed to talk, we needed to listen and we asked a lot of questions.”
According to Robbins, voters said that the district’s previous plan did not address the facility needs of grades four through eight. Some voters also expressed concerns about the length of the 37 year bond issue, as well as what would happen to the old buildings, Robbins added.
According to Superintendent Gretta Kumpf, the district’s buildings range in age from 14 years old, Tippecanoe High School, to 102 years old, the old Tipp Central. Central is used for storage and the Tipp City Enrichment Program.
Nevin Coppock Elementary, which is 59 years old, suffers from a lack of space and has asbestos ceilings, Director of Services Gary Pfister said. Broadway Elementary School, built in 1952, is being held together by tie rods.
“We have tie rods going from the back side to the front side, holding the structure together,” he said. The district has also had difficulty finding contractors willing to work on the building’s aging steam, natural gas and water and sewer lines, he added.
On the other hand, buildings like L.T. Ball Intermediate, 44 years old, and Tippecanoe Middle School, 54 years old, could be updated and used for another 20-25 years, Pfister told attendees.
He introduced a proposal to use permanent improvement money to make major updates to those two buildings, including HVAC work, roofing projects, new lighting, and safety and security upgrades. That could be paired with a possible future bond issue, at a time and dollar amount to be determined, to build a new K-3 facility.
“It addresses the part of the plan we didn’t address three years ago. It also takes into account this community’s conservative nature of expecting us as a district to get as much life out of something as possible for the least amount of dollars. And that’s a good thing,” he said. “We still feel that pre-K through three, as we felt three years ago, should be new construction.”
He suggested financing facility upgrades at the intermediate and middle schools by leveraging the district’s current permanent improvement funds to take out a lease purchase loan for public owners, which he equated to a home equity loan.
The 2 mil permanent improvement was first passed by the community in 1968 and generates about $689,000 per year. He also suggested converting the five year levy to a continuing levy, which would not need regular voter renewal.
Pfister stressed that the projects he outlined are only proposals and that nothing has been approved by the board. They include, at L.T. Ball Intermediate, the completion of a membrane roofing project, the replacement of the building’s chiller and cooling tower, HVAC enhancements, security and fire alarm upgrades, and lighting updates. The chiller is original to the building and is in need of immediate replacement to keep the building cool in hot weather, Pfister added.
In the next few years, Pfister said he would like to add new doors and windows to the largely windowless building, install new flooring and reconfigure some of the rooms so that students to have to pass through multiple classrooms to get to the hallway.
At the middle school, potential projects include a new boiler, HVAC repairs, adding air conditioning to the rooms that don’t have it, new roofing, door and window replacement, new gym floor, electrical and lighting updates, security upgrades and a new clock and public address system.
The forum then turned into small group discussion before regrouping to share questions about the proposal. Attendees raised questions about state funding, what would happen if the bond issue were to fail again, district growth and security.
The board outlined its next steps as continuing to collect feedback, to finalize details for the investments in L.T. Ball and Tippecanoe Middle School and to develop a process for engaging the community in the K-3 construction initiative.
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