EH moves forward with half a million in renovation projects this summer

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Results of a recent facilities study show officials with the Community School Corp. of Eastern Hancock that now is a good time to move forward with planned renovations. District officials say it’s time for them to prioritize upcoming needs within the main school building and to best utilize the space they have available via renovations.

While there will be a few projects done behind the scenes to ensure the systems that supply water and keep temperatures regulated are up-to-date, most of an estimated $500,000 in renovation work will be visible improvements.

“As soon as school is out this year, the workers will be here that following Monday to get things going,” said Adam Kinder, the EH Director of Business and Operations.

Superintendent George Philhower said that, oftentimes, the type of upgrades they are going to do this summer are costly, especially if left untouched, so they want to get the work done as soon as possible.

“We have done such a great job at EH over the past several years to ensure our facilities are in great shape, but we need to do a little more,” Philhower said.

Renovation projects include updates to the athletic office, which officials say has not been refurbished for some 30 years.

“While that project is being done, we plan to restructure the area to give us some more office space,” Philhower said.

Other improvements include a refresh of the middle school restrooms, which have not been updated since the late 1980s. There will also be an update to the central office where officials plan to create a more secure entrance.

Probably one of the more notable changes will come with an update of the middle and high school library area to make it more usable for students and staff.

“As you can imagine, libraries no longer serve the purpose that they did prior to the internet,” Philhower said. “Students no longer come to the library to use the encyclopedia as they did several years ago.”

That means the main library will be getting an upgrade to allow it to be used as a large-group instructional area. It will also be updated to allow it to be used as a maker space where students can connect and create.

“We received a STEM education grant from the Department of Education several months ago, and it will be used to purchase equipment to allow students hands-on learning opportunities,” Philhower said.

District officials want the library to be a true gathering place that can hold dozens of students or more. They plan to build a small stage to make it more user-friendly.

“Teachers can use it for a gathering place if they have a presentation say for all sixth graders,” Philhower said.

The renovated library will also have what officials are calling a “maker space” where students will be able to go for small group instruction.

“We’re going to get a laser cutter for the room, 3-D printers, sowing and embroidery equipment,” Philhower said. “We want things kids can use to make things.”

Part of the renovation includes redoing some of the art room where officials plan to get printers, via a donation from Phil Morris, who used to own Team Image and is a EH graduate, to help students make district themed products for a student run business class coming to the district.

“That will allow us to print our own T-shirts,” Philhower said.

Kinder noted they will not have to take out any loans or bonds to get the work done and said the money for all the work this summer will come out of their operations budget.

“We’re expecting bids back soon for several of these project so we don’t have any official numbers yet,” Kinder said.

Kinder noted they didn’t want to release any final cost numbers on the projects until the school board approves the funding, which is expected at the April meeting.

“We’re hoping numbers come in for everything at less than half a million,” Kinder said. “This is kind of our big project for the year.”

They’re also planning on adding other new security measures throughout the district which will also be done this summer.

“We actually have several little projects for this summer,” Kinder said.

While some districts have been tasked with taking out bonds, creating a referendum for funds and getting loans, Kinder said the EH corporation has been able to get projects done by staying within their budget.

“We’ve been stable the past seven years that I’ve been here,” Kinder said. “We’ve been able to maintain that consistent level of debt on a year-to-year basis.”

Philhower feels the projects are a great use of corporation monies as they prioritize needs, but he noted there is still more work to be done.

“We know we’ve got an elementary library that is going to need to be worked on soon and we’d love to have a couple more classrooms to give us a little more flexibility,” Philhower said. “We know our tax rates will be lower this year, so we just try to adjust for that with our planning.”

Philhower believes the changes will help the district utilize the spaces they have and provide more hands-on learning opportunities for students.