The Plymouth School Board held an hour – long Project and Preliminary Determination Hearing on Monday concerning a proposed $49,995,000 project that includes building a new junior high school. The proposed site for erecting the new school is where the current junior high football field is located.
Additional portions of the overall project include renovations of and improvements to Plymouth High School, Riverside Intermediate School, and Washington Discovery Academy. Plans include, as well, the renovation of a portion of the existing Lincoln Junior High.
Before taking comments and questions from the audience, Superintendent Daniel Tyree shared background information as the how they determined where a new school would be built and some of the considerations that went into the decision.
Tyree said they formed a focus group in 2012 consisting of principals, parents, community members, business owners, and teachers. After the group had toured the schools within the corporation, they divided into smaller groups to make recommendations. Tyree said they compared the cost to renovate or replace the school. Renovations that would need to be done included, but were not limited to, roofing, HVAC upgrades, mechanical upgrades, 190 doors/windows, sewage system, storm water drainage, lighting, and flooring. He went on to say they need an additional eight classrooms and updated science rooms. The current size of the LJH classrooms is 500 square feet and the shape of the classrooms presents problems to combine rooms.
A second group made up of former administrators served as consultants. According to Tyree, the group talked to parents and business owners and came to the conclusion that they needed to build a new facility and that it should be located within walking districts.
Tyree said they had Umbaugh &Associates analyze the corporation’s debt structure and it was noted that the years 2020-2022would be best to facilitate financing.
Architect Brian Bohlender, Barton-Coe-Vilamaa, presented what he termed a “planning stage.” In the diagram of a proposed layout, the school would be divided in PE/Health , a secure main entrance, office space, and a media center; cafetorium, fine arts , and support areas; and an academic wing, specialty programs and special education spaces. The academic portion would be two-story.
Presenting some of the financial impact on the proposed project was Pooja Shrestha of Umbaugh & Associates. She showed that the incremental tax impact would be approximately .08 cents. Shrestha also showed graphs depicting how the repayment structure would be a consistent annual amount.
Patrons speaking on the proposed project indicated that they are in favor of a new building, but still had concerns. Kevin Bridgman, who lives on LaPorte St. and directly north of the existing football field said he is against the location being proposed. He pointed out the problems of traffic as students are dropped off and picked up at LJH. He specifically questioned why plans show bus drop offs on a narrower street. He also said he has a view of green space now from his home; however that would change with a two-story building being built directly across from his property. He went on to ask if other locations had been considered.
Tyree said they had originally considered building in back of Riverside Intermediate, but found there was not enough room. Tyree said, “This one rose to the top in the end.”
Bridgman also asked if people in the neighborhood had been contacted by the focus groups. Tyree said as far as he knew, they had not. He said they probably got a good cross-section of Plymouth, but not in the neighborhood.
Business owner, Jeff Jones, asked questions about considerations for enrollment now and possible consolidations of school corporations in the future. Jones also voiced his concerns about the tax impact.
Mike Delp asked if the estimated cost was set at under $50,000,000 for a reason. The Board responded that the estimate came in below and that there was no specific limitations of amounts.
Delp also had questions about keeping a portion of the existing LJH building. Tyree said community comments led to keeping a portion that would include keeping the auditorium for programs and providing space for other uses.
The Board passed three resolutions on the project by a vote of 4-0-1 with Todd Samuelson abstaining due to his work with Umbaugh.
Carol Anders Correspondent