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NH proceeds with middle school project plans

Steps were taken by the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees to proceed with renovating the North Harrison Middle School.
As part of the plan, the five-member board voted unanimously at its Feb. 19 meeting to refinance the current outstanding debt on the North Harrison Elementary School project and combine the outstanding debt with $10 million that would allow for the renovation of the middle school building that was constructed in 1954 as the high school.
The middle school project, also approved by a 5-0 vote, will include the construction of new classrooms that will replace the North Harrison Upper Elementary Building and renovation of the HVAC system for the middle school. An alternate bid will be accepted for new water pipes.
One other course of action related to the NHMS project was the approval, pending state approval of the bonding and financing, to employ the professional services of architectural firm Kovert Hawkins, construction manager James L. Shireman Inc., Damian Maggos with George K. Baum & Co. as financial adviser and Jane Herndon with law firm Ice Miller as bond council. That also passed by a 5-0 vote.
‘We really need to do more than $10 million’ worth of work, D. John Thomas, superintendent of the school corporation, said, adding that the project really needs about $15.1 million.
That’s why the new bond will be for $13.1 million. (An additional $2 million has been committed to the project from the Capital Project fund.)
‘If the bids are less, we’ll be bonding less,’ Thomas said.
The board also unanimously approved a resolution between it and the superintendent for an annual property tax cap that, essentially, will keep property taxes from exceeding what they were in 2014, 77 cents per $100 of assessed value, by, if necessary, reducing the Capital Projects fund tax levy by the same amount that the Debt Service fund would be increased.
Only a handful of people attended the meeting, which was moved from the middle school to Morgan Elementary School, on a blistery cold night. That’s a drastic contrast from the work session the board had on Jan. 22 that was attended by dozens of people, many who spoke in favor of the renovation project.
If all goes as planned, work on the project could begin this fall, with completion anticipated in late 2016 or early 2017.
Also during the meeting, the certified public accounting firm of H.J. Umbaugh & Associates was approved to certify the school corporation’s outstanding debt.
‘We’ve used them in the past,’ Thomas said.
The board approved, 3-2 (Gary Byrne and Gregg Oppel opposed) Social Media Guidelines for the school corporation’s employees.
Dan Haskell, a teacher and president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association, said the issue was brought up last fall that ‘some kind of guideline’ was needed.
‘Social media has changed so much,’ he said, adding that the guidelines were presented ‘to get ahead of the game a little bit.’
The guidelines don’t say what employees can’t do; rather, they remind them of such things like they are ‘personally and professionally responsible for the content they publish online’; they ‘must be mindful that what they publish electronically is never really private’; and ‘online behavior should reflect the same standards of honesty, respect and consideration that is used face to face … (and content) is consistent with their work as an educator.’
The guidelines also ‘recommend’ that employees not ‘friend’ current students who are not family members, and discourages the ‘friending’ of students’ parents, as it ‘blurs the line between the personal and professional life.’
Lance Richards, the school corporation’s assistant superintendent, said that language in the guidelines was borrowed from similar guidelines.
Before the vote, Oppel asked for further explanation, saying he is ‘friends’ with teachers, knows of teachers who are friends with each other and knows that coaches use social media to communicate with their players.
‘We’re not trying to be the Facebook police,’ Richards said, but rather are reminding the staff, especially the ‘new and young teachers’ to be responsible.
Haskell said the guidelines also give employees ‘an out’ not to be online friends with students and/or their parents.
The next school board meeting was changed from the second Thursday of the month to Wednesday, March 11. It will start at 7 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria.