Plan includes additions, renovations, upgrades
$19M project for SR schools heard
Wanda English Burnett, Editor
Never has quality education been more important than
it is today. The opening statement by South Ripley Board
President Jim Miller met with positive response from the larger
than anticipated crowd at the meeting to find out about the South
Ripley building/renovation proposal last Thursday.
More than 200 people gathered at the elementary cafeteria to hear
plans outlined by Hal Kovert of Kovert Hawkins Architects. The
no frills proposal included renovations of the existing junior
and senior high school, additions and upgrades coming in at an
estimate of under $20M.
Miller noted that the money issue was something the board had
closely watched knowing taxpayers would bear the burden. School
officials have saved almost $3M that will be directly applied
to the project bringing it under the $17M mark. Those in attendance
heard that the impact to property owners would be about $8.00
a month for those with a home valued at $100,000. Agricultural
property would be impacted at a maximum of $2.14 an acre. The
increase would begin in 2009 and decrease each year thereafter.
Referring to unfunded stated mandates, Miller noted that more
requirements are put on schools today than ever before. While
South Ripley and Jac-Cen-Del school officials, members of the
community and staff met in numerous meetings over the past two
years looking at consolidation, in the end that was not an option.
South Ripleys board then began looking in earnest at what
they could do alone. They, along with experts in the field, came
up with the proposal, hoping to minimize the tax impact and maximize
education opportunity for students at the same time.
If we fail, an entire generation of students are at a competitive
disadvantage, noted Miller, as he introduced Hal Kovert,
who gave the overview to those attending the meeting. Talk.
Well Listen, were the first three words - important
words Kovert introduced the plan with.
He gave the design for the school saying they had been working
on the plan for several months. The problem of having a 40-year-old
facility that is in bad need of upgrades, coupled with the fact
the middle school students are currently mixed with the high school
students, was noted. One mission would be to segregate the middle
school students to an area that would be their own. The new plan
calls for a middle school wing, that would accomplish just that.
It would see 14 additional classrooms, a separate entrance for
the students, with the only shared space being a media
center. While the space would be shared, it would not be shared
at the same time as the high school students, and they would not
interact. The middle school wing would be in the area of the present
cafeteria. A new cafeteria, kitchen would be constructed.
Other important factors include the need for increased security
at both the elementary and junior/senior high school, a state
of the art science and media center, a gymnasium that would accommodate
graduation exercises as well as games. The option of continuing
to use the Tyson Gym is not available after the present lease
is up, which will be in 2008. Kovert noted the expense attached
to the lease and said that money would be better spent on the
new facility. A new Ag shop and maintenance area will be constructed,
along with expanded parking. The present property has enough space
to make a drive on the south side of the building that could make
a complete loop around the school.
A fitness and weight training room was mentioned with good response
from the crowd. It was noted that the state is placing more emphasis
on wellness than ever before. A lady in attendance
agreed and said the problem of obese children lingers into their
adult life, causing many health issues that in turn cost the taxpayers
A small addition will be made at the elementary school to accommodate
the states mandate for all day kindergarten. There will
be four additional kindergarten classrooms on the southeastern
corner, along with space for Title I Tutorial.
Kovert told the crowd the needs for the school corporation are
immediate. He noted that a remonstrance would only increase the
cost in the end and delays would hurt the students. This
is your school, your community...this needs to be a facility youre
willing to support, he noted.
When the floor was opened to those in the audience, some questions
were asked, such as How much would an entire separate middle
school facility cost? Would additional staff be needed? Are there
any state grants to fund the mandates? What about local funds?
Could we get a swimming pool? Where are the non-diploma students
in the plan?
One by one the questions were answered to the best of the school
board and superintendents ability. They said they felt with
the need for a gymnasium, renovations and upgrades at the high
school, the option to build a separate middle school would drive
the costs up significantly. This would also create the need for
additional staff. The school has researched every avenue they
know about to obtain grants and have some in the works, according
to Superintendent Ted Ahaus. A swimming pool that would allow
area students to participate in a swim team was popular, but in
the end, the feeling was a science lab would be more beneficial
and could taxpayers afford both?
Jeanette Mattingly was concerned about special education childrens
role in the new project. Why does my son have to be bussed
to Milan? she asked. Where are the non-diploma track
kids in this plan? Miller told her the details of the plan
have not been worked out. Ahaus noted that space is being added
and could be used in a variety of ways. Miller told her, I
promise you, we will consider your request. She thanked
him saying one in every 150 children are autistic. These
are the little ones who cant do for themselves.
Retired teacher Patsy Holdsworth received thunderous clapping
when she stood to her feet and stressed, Lets do something...we
have waited so long. Others echoed her plea, with David
Chandler from Cross Plains saying he thought the plan was reduced
to meet the needs. He said, Its not easy to ask people
to spend their money. He followed with, You dont
need a swimming pool. While the pool was a dream for some,
it wasnt considered an immediate need.
Miller agreed with Chandler, saying a lot of people live on a
fixed income. He said the board really tried to consider everything
at hand and come up with the best plan for all involved.
Could Tyson Gym be purchased? It could, but the ramifications
of making it compliant with state regulations would exceed the
budget that could be afforded by taxpayers when compiled with
other needs for the school. School officials and architects explained
they have tried to come up with a comprehensive plan that would
take care of all of the immediate needs, while looking somewhat
into the future.
Copies of the overview that were presented at the meeting are
available at the superintendents office in Versailles. Everyone
in attendance might not have a copy, since we didnt anticipate
such a great crowd, Superintendent Ahaus noted. However,
he wants everyone who wants a copy to have it. Included in the
handout are: Learning Plan Conclusions; Changes in Educational
Environments; Schematic Designs depicting additions and renovations;
costs broken down, Tailored Lease Payment Option; Debt Service
and Capital Project Fund Impact; Property Tax Impact; Project
Timeline and more. You can also access the plans at the schools
website at: www.sripley.k12.in.us.
If no remonstrance is filed, the school could take full possession
of the completed project in August of 2009. The gymnasium would
be available for use in November of 2008, and kindergarten classrooms
would be available in August of 2008.
School officials were told publicly they had done an excellent
job of addressing the needs. Miller told the crowd, We need
to know where you stand. He asked for a show of hands from
those who were in favor of what they had seen. Overwhelmingly,
the hands shown were in favor.
WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTO
Patsy Holdsworth, who taught, along with her husband Gary,
at South Ripley schools for more than 30 years, stood and
vocalized, "We need to do something." Those in
attendance clapped in response to her statement. There were
more than 200 people in attendance at the meeting held last
Thursday, April 12 at the South Ripley Elementary School
cafeteria, to hear about a proposal to upgrade, renovate,
and add on to the existing school facilities.