District planning renovations

Mt. Vernon seeking $10 million loan to cover cost of construction

FORTVILLE — As Mt. Vernon School Corp. moves forward with plans to renovate its middle school, district leaders announced they are eyeing a $10 million loan to cover the cost of construction.

The district announced plans to seek a loan during its school board meeting Tuesday evening; residents living in the district boundaries have 30 days to petition the proposal before the process moves forward, said Brian Tomamichel, the corporation’s chief financial officer.

The school corporation last year revealed plans to move eighth-graders — currently housed at the high school — back into the middle school to accommodate anticipated growth at the high school. In order to do so, significant renovations are required at the middle school, which was built in the 1970s.

Planned upgrades include nearly 30,000 square feet of additions to the building. More classroom space will be added to accommodate the more than 300 eighth-grade students the district expects to enroll in coming years.

Renovations to the cafeteria also are planned, though that project isn’t included in the bond, and construction is expected to start in March, said director of operations Tim Long.

The district is considering a 16.5 year repayment plan. Tax rates won’t be impacted by the bond, Tomamichel said. Last year, the district refinanced two loans that resulted in about $8 million of savings; those savings are helping to offset the loan’s impact on taxes, he said.

The renovations to the middle school were recommended after a six-month feasibility study that looked at projections for future growth in the school district and how best to accommodate a burgeoning student population. The district grew approximately 6.4 percent from the 2011-12 school year to last year, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

Odle McGuire Shook, an Indianapolis-based consulting firm, was tapped to perform the study last year to help the district plan for its fast-growing student population.

The study showed the high school, which currently houses eighth- through 12th-graders, is becoming cramped, and the additions at the middle school aim to alleviate some of the space crunch.

Superintendent Shane Robbins said he expects the loan to be finalized in June. Construction likely wouldn’t start until the fall, he said.

District leaders say renovating the middle school is the most cost-effective way to deal with growing enrollment.

Additionally, public meetings with parents and input from district employees highlighted the desire to move eighth-grade students back to the middle school, officials said.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.