FORTVILLE – Members of the Mt. Vernon community came together Thursday morning to celebrate the opening of the new transportation center with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Dr. Jack Parker, superintendent for Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation, said that the entire process started in 2019 with community champions, which consisted of 300 community members gathering to discuss the future needs of Mt. Vernon schools. After an approximate nine-month planning process, Parker said they had concluded that an intermediate school was needed for the growing number of students and a larger, more secure transportation center to house buses and allow room for growth in the future.

With the new center space, Dr. Parker said they were also able to install two built-in lifts with an additional portable one, whereas the old center only had one lift that was broken toward the end and barely had enough room for the mechanics to be able to move. The new center also has a secure room for storage of parts, providing more organization.

Dr. Jack Parker, superintendent for Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation, addresses the crowd that gathered Thursday morning in celebration for the new transportation center. Lacey Watt | Daily Reporter

Chad Gray, school board president, said that when looking at the new transportation center, there was an effort to be fiscally responsible during the design and build process. Gray said that some of the features, such as the canopies that provide coverage for the buses, were listed as alternates and options that could have been added throughout the build depending on fiscal matters.

“We’re tremendously excited that things came through in a way that we could add nearly every alternate that we wanted to, to make this the facility it is and we’re thankful for that,” Gray said.

Gray also mentioned the overall support of this center from the community and that, with his experience working in education, to receive a transportation center like this one “is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most school corporations.”

James Gulley with AECOM Hunt worked with the project since early 2022 and said that concrete work and the erection of the building started in April of last year, with a completion date of March 6, 2024. With the completion of the new center, Gulley wanted to thank all the contractors that had been a part of the process.

Mark Beebe with Ratio Design agreed with Gulley, saying the process has been a collaborative effort with not just contractors but also with the Mt. Vernon administration, school board and staff.

“You might think about this kind of work as an incredibly complex 20,000-piece puzzle,” said Beebe, saying that the new center was just one piece, and the new Fortville Elementary School currently under construction being another.

Dr. Parker explained that once the new school is built, that will house Fortville Elementary students up until the fourth grade, and the current elementary building will be Mt. Vernon Intermediate School, grades fifth and sixth.

In total for all the projects, the budget is $84 million, which will also help with campus circulation.

“As we grow, one of the challenges we have seen is parents queuing for drop offs and making sure that buses and parents are staying separate during the pickup and drop off times,” Dr. Parker said.

Dr. Parker said that with the perimeter loop road built and the old transportation center being torn down for an additional drive, it will allow for a single line for middle parent drop off and pick up – keeping those wait lines separate and creating a safer traffic flow for all –parents picking up/dropping off, student drivers and bus drivers.

“I do want to say how much I value our transportation department — they are amazing. Our drivers are the first ones to greet our students with a smile each day and make sure that they get home safely at the end of the day,” said Dr. Parker, addressing the transportation department, wearing matching black T-shirts for the day’s event. “And for all of your work, we’re so happy to be able to provide this for you and for our kids.”

The transportation team and others who helped in the process of the project celebrate as the ribbon is cut for the new center. Lacey Watt | Daily Reporter