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Public hearing set on renovations to NH building

Patrons of the North Harrison Community School Corp. will have an opportunity to ask questions about the proposed renovation of the elementary school on the Ramsey campus during a pubic hearing next month.
The hearing, known as a 1028, is part of the process required by state law before a school corporation can begin a building project. The hearing will take place at the beginning of the next regular school board meeting on Thursday, June 8, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the North Harrison Middle School Library.
The North Harrison school trustees have been considering their options for the aging North Harrison Elementary School for many months and began having public hearings about a proposed project last August.
Last month, in a 3-2 vote, the trustees decided to move ahead with the project, opting to remodel the berm building instead of demolishing it and starting from scratch. They want to replace the old heating and cooling system, install walls in the classrooms to eliminate the ‘pod’ design and build a second story of classrooms to ease overcrowding.
There is also concern among some teachers and parents that the air quality and mold situation in the building, which was constructed in the early 1980s, is making teachers and students sick.
‘We’re far away from final drawings’ of what the renovated building will look like, Supt. Monty Schneider said Thursday night at the monthly school board meeting.
Setting the 1028 Hearing is the ‘first formal step’ in proceeding with the project, Schneider said.
Last week’s monthly board meeting was moved to the North Harrison High School’s auditeria due to a small fire in the middle school’s home economics room. (See story at right.)
Jerry Firestone, director of educational planning for RQAW Consulting Engineers and Architects, said the hearing date also establishes the 30-day time frame for the filing of a remonstrance, the opportunity for a taxpayer to formally protest the building project.
Also at last week’s meeting, the school trustees voted to send James L. Shireman Inc. a letter of intent to use the Corydon firm as the project’s construction manager. Trustee Buddy Bosler voted against the motion, saying he wasn’t convinced they need a construction manager.
The trustees committed $60,000 to $70,000 to RQAW for more advanced drawings of the project and up to $36,000 for Performance Services for an energy-savings contract for the elementary building. Both firms have been working since last fall with the school corporation without pay.
Trustee Ron Coleman objected to both motions to commit the funds, without comment. He had voted last month against the renovation project; instead, he favored demolition and starting from scratch.
Firestone estimated bids could be let in November for the project, which is an ‘ideal time’ as contractors are lining up work for the next year. Estimated completion is the fall of 2008.
RQAW’s staff will meet with school personnel to develop a building plan. ‘We want to make sure (teachers) are getting what they want,’ Firestone said.
‘This starts a long, long process,’ Schneider said. ‘Hopefully we will have a much better building, and our students and staff will be pleased.’
Also last week, Greg Rupp, president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association, urged the school board to dismiss its lawyer and return to the bargaining table for contract negotiations. He said the school corporation has been operating with a ‘status-quo contract’ for two years.
‘If you received status-quo grades and discipline from our students, status-quo work from the maintenance, bland, status-quo food from the cafeteria, and a sloppily typed, status-quo paper from our secretaries, you should most certainly be upset,’ Rupp read from a two-page, prepared statement. ‘In every walk of life, you don’t treat your employees like second-class citizens and expect excellence from them.’
Rupp accused the school trustees of not having a long-range, or even a short-term, plan. ‘It’s time we start working together and communicating,’ he said. ‘It’s time that we start to truly negotiate instead of playing delay games.’
In other matters Thursday night, the trustees:
* Approved nine changes to the North Harrison High School handbook as recommended by Principal Kelly Simpson. Rupp asked that the trustees postpone approving the changes until it could be determined if the Student Council had input on the changes. Schneider encouraged the board to make a decision last week due to time constraints of getting the handbooks printed for the next school year. Simpson, who arrived later at the meeting after working at the track meet, said students had the opportunity to voice concern over the proposed changes.
* Approved nine policies to be included in the Board Policy manual. Sections approved were: Hatch Amendment (No Child Left Behind Act); Training and Health Precautions for Communicable Diseases; Title I Parental Involvement; Homeless Students: Enrollment Rights and Services; Exit Interview; School Age Child Care Program; Early Entrance Appeal Procedure (Kindergarten); Homework; and Criminal History Information. Schneider said the approval of these policies ‘about finishes up’ the manual that needed to be updated as required by state law.
* Accepted resignations from Eric Harris as a part-time school corporation maintenance employee; Paulette Combs as a custodian at North Harrison Middle School; Dana Streigel as boys tennis coach; Kathy Chinn as co-sponsor for the prom; and Mark Walton as a teacher’s assistant at NHMS.
* Approved the appointments of Sandra Schmidt and Sherri (Jill) Murphy as co-cheerleader coaches for the sixth grade; Jennifer Doss and Jenna Cox as co-cheerleader coaches at the high school; Lori Rennirt as a temporary teacher at NHES; Amber Rothrock as a full-time English teacher at NHHS, beginning with the 2006-07 school year; and Kevin Jones as a ninth grade boys basketball coach.
* Accepted a donation from Dr. Bill Johnson for $1,455 to purchase a pitching machine for the softball team.
* Authorized Assistant Supt. Ken Oppel to advertise for bids on a variety of goods and services (such as fuel, milk and bread) needed during the 2006-07 school year.
Fire starts in NHMS home economics room
A fire last week at the North Harrison Middle School was quickly contained, preventing little damage.
Ken Oppel, assistant superintendent for the North Harrison Community School Corp., said the fire was reported about 5:25 p.m. Thursday, a little more than two hours before the monthly school board meeting was scheduled to start in the middle school building.
The first firefighters arrived on the scene within two minutes, Oppel said, to find the building full of smoke.
Oppel said it appeared that one or two sewing machines on the south side of the room may be to blame for the fire.
Milltown-Whiskey Run Township firefighters were called to provide assistance to members of the Ramsey Volunteer Fire Dept.
Oppel credited the fire department’s ‘fast response’ to containing the fire.
‘It could’ve been a very serious situation,’ he said.
The school board meeting was relocated to the North Harrison High School auditeria and started a few minutes late.
North Harrison Middle School Principal Jon Howerton was out of town at the sixth grade camping trip.
Students did attend classes Friday in the middle school building.