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Crawford County Junior-Senior High School seventh-grader Nicholas Lahue, center, along with junior Leah Lahue and James Oglesby, presents the Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees a thank-you banner signed by students for its support of the science labs and media center renovation at the school. Photo by Chris Adams

$1.4M project gets green light

Science labs, media center to be ready by start of next school year

January 26, 2011
The much-discussed proposed renovation of the science labs and media center at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School has been given the go-ahead and is expected to be completed in time for the 2011-12 school year.

The Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees, meeting last Tuesday night at Milltown Elementary School, voted 7-0 to accept the low bid of almost $1.2 million from James L. Shireman Inc. of Corydon.

Once contingency and soft costs are added, the renovation is expected to cost approximately $1.4 million, about $300,000 less than what Michell Timperman Ritz Architects, the firm overseeing the project and who recommended Shireman's bid be accepted, had earlier estimated to be the best-case scenario.

The bulk of Shireman's bid — almost $800,000 — is for renovation of the six existing science labs on the northeast corner of the building. The labs will be gutted and turned into three modern science labs and one vocational agriculture lab. The rest of the bid amount is for updating the media center, including the construction of a new classroom and installation of a skylight, bringing natural light to the area located in the center of the school.

The project will be financed primarily through an essentially no-interest loan funded from the sale of federal Qualified Zone Academy Bonds. In addition, the Crawford County Council has authorized the school corporation to use up to $250,000 of the gaming dollars it receives from the county toward the project.

An earlier debt service rate impact study indicated the new loan could be repaid in two years — 2022 and 2023 — by extending the current rate for those years instead of increasing it. If the school corporation is still receiving gaming dollars then, the rate actually would be 0.27 and 0.11 in those years, respectively, less than the current 0.39 rate.

During a public hearing prior to the regular meeting, corporation Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge said the renovation — the first significant upgrade to either area since the school opened in the mid-1970s — builds upon the strong educational foundation already in place. He said the corporation's goal is to be at such a high level that if the state diverts money from public schools to vouchers and charter schools, Crawford County won't be affected.

"We want to be able to say that we offer such a high quality of education" through personnel, curriculum and facilities "that you can bring a charter school in, but you can't compete with the quality provided by our school system," Eastridge said, "and that you can do vouchers, whatever you want to do, that we at Crawford County are striving to have the best school system around that competition doesn't frighten us."

Eastridge also talked about Gov. Mitch Daniels' plan to provide a $3,500 cash incentive to students who graduate early and go on to college. He said many students are not mature enough for college at that age. That, he explained, is why it is important for the school to be able to offer advanced programs, including those for college credit.

"I don't want our kids to have to leave early, to have to go to college a year ahead," he said. "I want those services to be provided right here in Crawford County to our kids, so that when they go, they are truly ready."

Eastridge praised the school board and county council, along with the school's building corporation, for amending the building's lease agreement to reflect the renovation project, for displaying the "courage and vision" to do what could be afforded during these uncertain economic times.

Tim Jellison, president of the school board, said times are tough economically, but, pointing to a trio of students — juniors Leah Lahue and James Oglesby and seventh-grader Nicholas Lahue — who presented a signed thank-you banner earlier in the discussion, the board must do what it can to continue to improve the school.

"As we all know, in times like these, it would be very easy to sit in limbo and not do anything, for fear of what's to come," trustee Debbie Kaiser added, "but I think you still have to make those strides, you have to do what you can; even if they're small steps, you still have to make those steps, especially in education.

"I don't see how you could ever sit in limbo and wait for things to get better. You have to be proactive, and I feel like that's what we've done."

In addition to the vote to accept the bid from Shireman, the school board approved the resolution to amend the building's lease agreement with the Crawford County School Building Corp.

Construction on the science labs is expected to begin during spring break (March 21 through 25), while work on the media center is to begin this summer. The entire project is to be completed by early August.

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