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Renovating elementary school is a possibility

Taxpayers in the North Harrison Community School Corp. were apprised of a possible renovation of the elementary school at Ramsey that could impact their tax rate. They reacted by asking the school board to also consider renovating Morgan Elementary, south of Palmyra.
In asking to increase the scope of a renovation project, some teachers and parents said at Monday night’s special school board meeting that Morgan should be included because it is overcrowded. (Enrollment there is 475.)
School trustee Kathy Goldman reminded them that the reason a renovation project is being consider at North Harrison Elementary in Ramsey is not because of too many students but because the 25-year-old facility ‘ give or take ‘ has a pod design that’s not conducive to learning.
There have also been concerns about air quality and mold in the berm facility that now has 561 students.
Jerry Firestone, director of educational planning for RQAW Consulting Engineers and Architects, described a possible project as two-fold.
‘There are two basic elements driving this project,’ he said. They are ‘life and safety’ of the students, as well as to ‘create an environment … conducive to education.’
RQAW, which has done several other projects in Harrison County, including the Justice Center, visited the Ramsey campus last spring and distributed a questionnaire to the staff in order to compile a Statement of Needs.
‘Next, we tried to come up with some solutions to meet those needs, taking into account cost,’ Firestone said.
One solution would be to renovate the facility, including removing dirt from the roof and berms, and putting in walls to make classrooms. RQAW suggested other interior remodeling that would affect the gymnasium, cafeteria, music room, library and art room.
Based on a rough estimate, this could be done for about $5,635,462, Firestone said.
If desired, alternate bids could be let for such things as adding a few classrooms and changing the heat source from electric to propane. The use of propane has a potential cost savings of $33,719 a year.
For another $1,725,000, the alternates could be added to the project.
Or the school board could decide to demolish the school and build a new one, resulting in a price tag of about $11 million plus another couple of million dollars for ‘soft costs’ and contingency funds, said Firestone.
He cautioned that what he presented was an ‘initial concept.’
‘There needs to be a lot of feedback and input before a final plan is derived,’ Firestone said.
Because county officials haven’t given final approval to disperse $800,000 to the school corporation from riverboat money, as it has done the past two years, Supt. Monty Schneider has prepared a budget that doesn’t include that money, which could increase the tax rate by about 22 cents. A renovation project could add another 14 cents on top of that.
‘What’s done here won’t affect the 2006 tax rate,’ Schneider said. The earliest taxpayers would see an increased based on such a project would be 2007, more likely 2008.
(The 2006 budget hearing is scheduled for tonight at 7:30 in the North Harrison Middle School library. It will be adopted during a board meeting on Sept. 14, which also starts at 7:30 p.m. in the middle school library.)
Board president Fred Naegele said he and the other four board members visited several other schools to look at possibilities. ‘We’re not set on anything at this time,’ he said.
Both Naegele and Schneider reminded the audience that funding for such a project is done through the corporation’s Capital Project fund.
‘Lay-offs last spring had to do with the General Fund,’ Naegele said.
No one spoke Monday night against a renovation project. Some were forthright with what they wanted to see done.
Robert Jones, a farmer from the Bradford area, said he was representing 21 property owners.
‘I’m totally against the renovation’ of the North Harrison Elementary School, he said. Instead, Jones wants to ‘implode the building and rebuild.
Despite being in ‘a Depression-era’ as far as farm prices go, Jones said the school corporation should ‘do whatever it takes to get a facility’ that is the best for the children.
Jeff Davis of Ramsey, the chief financial officer for Harrison County Hospital, said, ‘As my dad always said, ‘If you remodel an old house, you still have an old house.’ ‘
Responding to comments about enrollment, Schneider said it has been declining the past 10 years even though people have been moving to Harrison County from Louisville and surrounding cities.
‘I thought the enrollment would be going up,’ he said. Now, with gasoline prices at an all-time high, Schneider said he doesn’t know what to expect.
Monday’s meeting was held to gauge support and interest from the public.
‘This will not be the final meeting on this,’ Schneider said.