South Ripley School Corporation approves first step in building new facilities

Cindy DiFazio - Staff Writer

The South Ripley School Corporation Board of Directors held a public hearing concerning a bond issue for construction of facilities on Monday, May 21, 2007. All members of the board were present.

Board president, Jim Miller, began, “Never has quality education been more important than today.” He continued, “Our mission in our schools and in our community should be to help students reach their potential.” Miller noted that South Ripley schools barely meet state requirements for graduation and that the school corporation must institute corrective action.

Miller said that when it became clear that there would be no merger with Jac-Cen-Del, the South Ripley School Corporation began planning on its own. Taken into consideration were the needs and the limitations of the community to achieve a balance in the planning.

Before introducing Hal Kovert, architect with the firm of Kovert-Hawkins Architects, Miller cautioned, “If we fail, we put an entire generation of students at a disadvantage.”

Kovert described his firm’s proposal as a “learning plan” that first identified deficiencies, then determined options along with costs associated with each option and finally solidified and determined a final direction.

Some compelling reasons for proposed changes and new facilities are:
• Tyson Gym unavailable after May 2008
• Increased technology needs
• Competition for students in the area
• Provide proper spaces for all programs
• Correct items of disrepair due to age and use
• Improve overall physical condition of buildings
• Buildings to provide for today and tomorrow

The way the plan would accomplish these ends is to:
• Upgrade science laboratories and equipment
• Upgrade media center
• Expand the cafeteria
• Add performing arts area
• Ensure appropriate and adequate physical education facilities
• Perform a general upgrade of the facility

In order to reach these goals, it was determined that the junior high school should be separated from the high school in order to create its own identity and to develop curriculum specifically designed for junior high students.

To accomplish that, 17 classrooms would be added to the high school.

Additional space would also be created at the elementary school to implement full-day kindergarten, soon to be mandated by the state.

The costs for the project are:
• High School renovations - $4,530,000
• High School additions - $9,900,000
• Elementary addition - $1,200,000
• Soft costs - $2,749,485

The total project cost is $19,538,135. The corporation has $2,773,135 on hand. The net bond issue the corporation will ask for is $16,765,000.

The property tax impact under a tailored payment option devised by City Securities Corporation would be as follows. This project will impact a homeowner of property assessed at $100,000 with an increase in their property tax a maximum of $8 per month ($96 per year) beginning in 2009 and would decrease each year thereafter.

This project will impact agricultural property assessed at $1,140 an acre with an increase in their property tax a maximum of $2.14 an acre per year beginning in 2009 and then decrease each year thereafter.

If the project is allowed to proceed as planned, construction could begin in March 2008. Kindergarten classrooms would be available for use in August 2008 and the gymnasium would be ready to use in November. The entire project would be completed in August 2009.

Following the presentation, public comment was requested.

Andy Richter of Versailles commended the school board for coming up with a plan that addresses the schools’ needs without going overboard. She commented, “What we’re producing right now are kids who are not able to compete for jobs.” Richter cautioned, “We’ll end up an area of senior citizens and lower-income families.” She closed by saying, “Whether or not we have children in the school system, as elders of this community we owe this to the kids.”

Rusty Reed is the father of a child with special needs. He said that while he applauds the special needs program at the elementary level at South Ripley, what will happen at higher levels? Reed noted that after sixth grade, special needs children are bused to another school district. He believes that this takes away from the students’ education. Reed asked the board to take these kids’ needs into consideration in the planning for new facilities. “I would like to see those needs met,” he stated. “They are part of our community also.”

Mark Taylor, of Versailles, thanked the board for putting together a solution. He noted that while he is in full support of what is on the table, he feels it’s not enough to fix the problems for the future. Taylor stated that there are two foundations of a community - churches and schools. He commented, “When we lose either, there are decreases in industry, economics and population.” Taylor shared that it is a struggle for his family every year facing the decision to keep sending their daughters to school in the South Ripley district. He suggested that schools need to do more than just meet the minimum standard. Taylor ended by saying, “We’ve needed to do this for 20 years. Let’s keep the families that we have and bring in more.”

The two resolutions to request a bond issue passed unanimously.