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Plans move forward with NH building

Plans are proceeding to remodel North Harrison Elementary School. And with the 30-day period expiring without anyone filing a remonstrance, the North Harrison Community School Corp. should be on track to have the renovated building ready for the 2008-09 school year.
The community got its first look at an artist rendering of what the completed school facility, projected to cost $12 million, could look like.
Jerry Firestone, director of educational planning for RQAW Consulting Engineers and Architects, was at Thursday night’s board meeting for the school corporation to give an update about the project.
First is the schematic design phase, where they ‘focus on the big picture,’ Firestone said.
Next, they move to the design development stage, which considers locations of items such as cabinetry, outlets and duct work for the heating and cooling system.
The last phase, referred to as construction and document, includes the bidding process.
‘It’s kind of a progressive process,’ Firestone said.
RQAW representatives have been meeting with teachers and staff of the elementary building to obtain their desires for the school structure.
‘We really appreciate their input,’ he said. ‘We’ve tried to really listen to what they want in their building.’
RQAW and Performance Services, the firm designing the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, are also working with James L. Shireman Inc. in Corydon.
‘The drawings tonight are not the final design,’ Firestone emphasized. ‘Some tweaking might need to be done. We may need to separate needs and wants to make sure the needs get done.’
Requests that don’t make the ‘needs’ list could be bid as alternates, he said.
The artist rendering showed a metal roof in what was described as, what else, Cougar Blue. The pods in the existing elementary school would be divided into three more traditional classrooms. A second story, which would be added, would have classrooms similar in size and shape as those on the first floor. Rest rooms would also be located on the second floor.
Greg Rupp, president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association and a fourth-grade teacher at NHES, said he was concerned that there was no ‘planning for the future,’ especially since a designated teacher’s lounge could become a classroom when the needs arise, leaving no additional space for a lounge/meeting room for the staff.
Firestone said additional space could be added onto the building, but, ‘we need to keep the reins on the scope of the project,’ he said, especially since the taxpayers have already been given the project’s estimated price tag.
He said his staff will go back and look at the drawings to see if there are other options within the square footage already planned.
Mark Shireman said he and his son, Ben, have been talking with the ‘survivors’ of the original building team in preparation of completing the work ‘safely’ while still having students in the building. Besides adding classroom walls to the pods and constructing a second story, the project involves removing dirt from the berm building and replacing the old heating and cooling system.
There has been 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 some staff and students sick.
North Harrison School Supt. Monty Schneider said the 30-day time period for anyone to file a remonstrance against the building project expired at the end of the day Friday with no one formally protesting the project.
Also at last week’s meeting, the school trustees unanimously approved the formation of the North Harrison Community School Building Corp., the body that will borrow the money for the project. Those members are Jerry Atkins, Brian Churchill, Norman Swarens, Scott Trowbridge and Dan Wolfe.
Two other necessary action items ‘ the adoption of a resolution for approval of the lease and approval for notification of the lease ‘ passed 4-1, with Gary Byrne casting the nay vote both times.
Byrne, who was sworn in Thursday night as the new member of the board after defeating Kathy Mott Goldman in the May election, said the next day that he voted against the motions because he does not support the project as planned.
‘What bothered me was the decision was made the month before the election,’ he said, adding that he had told the board at its April meeting that they were making a mistake and needed to get a second opinion. I didn’t think they were getting a fair proposal.’
(The motion to renovate the existing building passed 3-2.)
Byrne said he had attended every board meeting since discussion about a building project of some type began in August.
‘I’ve done a lot of listening and a lot of research on my own,’ he said.
Some of his key concerns are that the proposed project has a lot of wasted space, an elementary building shouldn’t have a second story, and that the first-floor design as proposed is bad and will be duplicated on the upper level.
‘I just don’t support the direction that was already chosen’ before he joined the board, Byrne said.
Other discussion last week at the meeting about the project pertained to the main entrance of the building, in particular the obstructed view of people entering and exiting the school. RQAW plans to eliminate some of the concrete structure that is there now, which should improve sight distance.
Teacher Janice Sauerheber asked if every classroom would have a window and if they would be able to open and close.
Firestone responded that each classroom would have a window, and if it was the desire of the trustees to have the windows operational, they would be.
The design development phase of the project should be ready for presenting at the Sept. 14 school board meeting, Firestone said.