Renovations in store for schools

High school office to top priorities
NAPPANEE — If all goes according to plan, the year 2013 may very well start off with a bit of a bang for NorthWood High School. 
This declaration can be taken quite literally, as in the sounds of construction getting underway. Members of the Wa-Nee Board of School Trustees detailed their preliminary schedule for approaching a renovation endeavor during their session held Monday, Sept. 10.
Just as they’ve done for much of the summer, the board spent a fair amount of time discussing their vision on how to accomplish a list of upgrades, repairs, and other necessities over the course of the next four years. At issue is how best to reach those goals distributed over four separate phases for a price tag of just below $2 million for each, using funds culled from the debt services portion of the annual budget. 
Also of consideration — which projects should be addressed first?
After some discussion, the board reached a unanimous consensus that a new office suite for NorthWood High School will be the at the top of the list, predominantly to enhance security at the main entrance of the campus.  Superintendent Joe Sabo reassured the board that although NorthWood does have a resource officer on hand to deal with situations as they arise, it is still advantageous to have extra safety measures in place by making sure that visitors to the school cannot fully enter without receiving clearance from the front office.
The new office complex will be situated at the southwest area of the school, and has an estimated cost of $1.7 million. The space where the current office is located is likely to be converted into extra classrooms, potentially for use by the special education staff and students.
Sabo outlined a timetable of events that will transpire in the coming weeks, to facilitate construction possibly occurring as early as springtime. Oct. 22, a 1028 hearing has been scheduled, which is a public meeting requirement set forth by the state when a building project reaches costs in excess of $1 million. From there, the design phase will begin, followed by the anticipated closing of the bond issue by year’s end. 
Bids are expected to be advertised and accepted around February of 2013, with construction to begin by April. The targeted completion date is October of 2013. The office complex construction was the top priority presented on a list of projects known as “Option B,” which was the preferred course of action suggested by Sabo and other administrators. The list also includes several maintenance related matters for the five school buildings, to be dealt with over the remaining three years of the four-year phase objective.
If the board had chosen “Option A,” the office suite would have been pushed ahead to the second year. Sabo did clarify that by going with “Option B,” the remaining projects can continually be discussed and prioritized as time progresses, which the board agreed would be necessary.
Prior to the board casting their vote to proceed with “Option B,” Sabo noted, “There is some urgency to get this approved, so that we can accomplish the bonds and add costs into the debt services part of the 2013 budget.” 
He also observed, “We’ll be able to get these projects done while still keeping the tax rate stable.”
Other matters acted upon by the board included:
• Conducting a public hearing on the 2013 budget, recently outlined in a previous edition of the Advance-News. No one from the community was present to express remonstrance.
• Approving the appointment of Jennifer Horner to the Wakarusa Public Library.
• Acknowledging the award-winning season of the NorthWood High School girls golf team, sharing their NLC championship with Warsaw.  The team will be attending an upcoming meeting to be congratulated by the board members.
• Giving a blanket approval for overnight and out-of-state travel for groups that would be advancing to state level competitions.
• Staffing concerns, including the resignation of Cortnie Jenkins from her position in the NorthWood Middle School girls track program. Two leaves of absence were also granted, one for Kelly Schmidt, second grade teacher at Wakarusa Elementary, from January 7 to May 30. The second request was from Cortney Spencer, math teacher at NorthWood High School, who will be on leave from February 1 through May 1.
There is a date and time change for the next meeting of the Board of School Trustees, as their regularly scheduled Sept. 24 session date falls during a conference. The board will next convene Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 a.m. in the administration office.