Lots of questions directed at HCCSC board in Monday eve work session

Members of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees spent most of their time during a public work session Monday, July 10, answering questions and concerns posed during a previous session by residents, parents and teachers.

The board also noted that a vote on proposed school realignment plans will take place on July 24.

Board President Matt Roth and Superintendent Randy Harris presented most of those answers, going through topics one by one:

• In response to a question of whether Jackson Township is experiencing the largest growth in Huntington County, Roth said it was his understanding that the demographer who recently did a study of the county reported that none of the townships were experiencing growth.

Board member Matt Melcher, who represents District 1, which includes Roanoke, said he didn’t see an official projection of growth for the township.

“I think Jackson Township is seeing growth because of people trans- ferring in … and parents are dropping their kids off on the way to Fort Wayne, and that’s why Roanoke (school) is so full right now,” he said.

• Roth answered a question about the future of the school corporation’s older buildings after they are closed by saying that HCCSC will have to notify the Indiana Department of Education of the vacancy of a facility. He added a charter school would be able to rent the building for $1 per year or buy it for $1.

If there are no takers, the buildings could be demolished. Roth said the cost to tear down a building would be around $4 per square foot, or about $220,000 for one building.

• A question about the location of the administration offices if the Horace Mann building is re-opened as a  school was answered by Harris.

He said until the decisions are made as to what schools will be closed, there are no plans. However, the administrative offices would have to move out of Horace Mann because the school would need the use of the entire facility for its students.

Moving to Huntington North High School might be a possibility, but Harris said he has issues with relocating the central office to the high school, including concerns about security.

Roth added that building a standalone facility for the corporation’s central office could cost between $660,000 and $1 million, if that option is chosen.

• Harris also answered a question about where a new elementary school, which would replace the aging Roanoke elementary School building, would be located if the board chooses that option. He said a location has not yet been determined.

“We do have additional property there at the Roanoke school site,” he explained. “We wouldn’t be able to close school and build it on the exact same site. So, obviously, I think that would be a strong possibility … if not in the town of Roanoke, we sure want it close to that.”

He added that wherever the district decides to build a school, it will want to build it where city utilities are available.

Roth reiterated that a new school would most likely be built in the county’s northeast quadrant and serve Roanoke and parts of the northwest county.

“Where it is located is important, but for me, building a new one is more important in making it the correct size,” he said. “We don’t want to build a school that’s too small.”

• Harris answered a question of how HCCSC would handle school transfer requests by saying it would be a different procedure than the last time the corporation experienced school redistricting, when “grandfathering” transferred students included bus transportation.
That sometimes caused more than one bus to pick up students on the same route and take them to different school buildings. He suggested the cross-district grandfathering end.

“The one thing that I would request is that once we make the redistricting, that that’s the only place we are providing transportation by bus within that school district,” Harris said. “If a parent did request that (a transfer) … in that case the parent’s responsibility to provide that transportation and not the school district’s responsibility.”

Roth said the board would have to revisit those policies; however, the earliest any changes would become effective are with the 2018-19 school year.

• A question about whether redistricting could be done in two stages was answered by Harris, who said the corporation could do it, but it would not be as easy as doing a one-time redistricting of the entire corporation.

Proposed maps showing new district boundaries with each school closing option were presented, along with figures showing the distribution of student numbers at each elementary school.

A “needs list” of repairs and upgrades was also presented.

Roth said if the corporation had a blank check to do meet all needs on the list, it would total around $68.5 million.

“But you have to go through that with a fine-toothed comb and see what is an urgent need, and what is not an urgent need,” he added.

As it stands, the board is considering three proposals regarding closing schools:

• Close Lancaster and Northwest elementary schools, and re-open Horace Mann.

• Close Lancaster, Northwest and Roanoke; re-open Horace Mann and build a new elementary in the northern part of the county to replace Roanoke.

• Leave all buildings as they are currently.

The school closure decision is expected to take place at the July 24 school board meeting. Roth said the procedure for the board’s action during meeting will be to entertain and vote on the first motion, and vote on another motion if the first one fails or doesn’t cover everything the board wants to include. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Horace Mann Education Center boardroom.

The document packet presented during the work session, which includes proposed redistricting maps, is available on the HCCSC website at www.boarddocs.com/in/hccsc/Board.nsf/files/AP5SMK6E996C/$file/Special_Work_Session_7.10.2017.pdf.

The work session video can be viewed at livestream.com/accounts/13311973/events/7580418/videos/159644192.

Additional questions or concerns may be brought to the school board by emailing comments@hccsc.k12.in.us.