School board irons out details on both schools closing and reopening

In a public work session attended by few members of the public, the Huntington County Community School Board of School Trustees ironed out a lengthy list of decisions that will need to be made regarding the closings of two school buildings and the reopening of a third.

Board members expanded the list submitted by Superintendent Randy Harris, who said he had been adding to the document even after it had been printed. It included a total of 17 points after it was reviewed at the meeting.

Decisions to be made by the school board in the coming weeks and months will also be laid out in a timeline to pin down when tasks will likely be addressed and completed. The decision points include:

• Develop a list of decisions to be made as to location of shared services, essential skills classrooms, special education, preschool and alternative school.

Calculate the maximum student capacity for each building and grade level and develop staffing needs for each building.

Develop a redistricting process and creation of the process for staff assignments for the next school year, looking at seniority, grade level and evaluation.

• Find a new location for the central administrative office, which currently operates at Horace Mann Education Center. That building will reopen as an elementary school for the 2018-19 school year.

Make changes to Horace Mann, including an HVAC upgrade, moving of records, furniture and other items, replacement of some windows, reinstallation of drinking fountains and refinishing the gymnasium floor.

• Consider student transitions, including redistricting and transporting students from closed buildings to Horace Mann and redistricted middle schools and planning the move to a new Roanoke school.

Decisions must also be made on where elementary schools will send their outgoing fifth grade students, to either Riverview or Crestview middle schools.

A student transfer policy will also be devised.

• Make plans for the Northwest and Lancaster buildings — repurpose, sell or demolish, observing Indiana Code requirements for vacant school facilities.

• Determine renovations needed at Salamonie School.

• Address the new elementary school and improvements to be made at Huntington North High School.

Considerations include the financial process, hiring an architect, the design process and construction process. One of the first decisions will be to obtain soil samples immediately.

• Create new schedules for all buildings, including start and stop times.

• Name a principal for Horace Mann and develop transfer policies for teachers and staff from the Northwest and Lancaster buildings.

• Market the changes, keeping the public informed of the decisions and processes taking place.

Harris said redistricting should be done as soon as possible. Setting the boundaries will drive the next steps, which include developing a transportation plan.

“Our idea was for me to plan and communicate a new transfer policy by November,” Harris said. “That will give the parents more than enough time, if they found out that their babysitter isn’t as convenient as they want, this will give them time to adjust to that.”

Another decision that Harris is working on is finding a new home for administration offices. The district needs 10,000 to 15,000 square feet for the location, which he said should ideally be centrally located. He added the offices should move out of Horace Mann in April or May of 2018.

The financial process, including obtaining a general obligation bond, will be discussed at the next regular board meeting on Monday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. in the board room at Horace Mann Education Center. Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Jon Bennett said at that time, some of the renovations will be discussed.

No public comments were made at the meeting. Board President Matt Roth said he was dismayed that more people had not come to the open work session, outside of some teachers and staff members.

“I appreciate the four people that came tonight,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to say, ‘I didn’t know what was going on,” but I would say, ‘Here’s the eight ways we tried to communicate this to everybody.’”

A link to the video recording of the meeting can be found on the HCCSC website, www.hccsc.k12.in.us.