A lengthy discussion on future building projects dominated the Dec. 11 Hamilton Southeastern Schools Board of Trustees meeting.
The board eventually unanimously approved a preliminary determination resolution that sets funding parameters for a new elementary school in Wayne Township to replace Durbin Elementary.
Initially proposed as preparations to potentially replace two of the district’s elementary schools, which also included Fishers Elementary in Delaware Township, the board removed the Delaware Township project from the proposal, cutting the plan’s costs in half from $70 million to $35 million.
“We’ve discussed the importance and urgency of moving on a project to replace Durbin Elementary for purposes of enrollment. We discussed the urgency in terms of moving students from buildings that are overcrowded right now and served through portable classrooms,” Supt. Allen Bourff said. “We also discussed a project to replace Fishers Elementary. That was not driven so much by demographics. We discussed the fact that there are classrooms in all the buildings throughout the district that are serving students that were never intended to be classrooms. In fact, a subsequent study revealed that we have upwards of 40 classrooms that are being used that were never designed to be classrooms.
“So, the urgency of the Fishers Elementary project would be due to providing enough rooms that we could capture some of those spaces that were originally intended in the other buildings for purposes that are not being served.”
“I’m looking at it as if (the Delaware Township) proposal is all fuzzy,” board President Michelle Fullhart said. “We don’t have any land. We’re not sure what we’re going to do. We’re not sure if we even need it. I hesitate to go forward with two projects knowing that one of them is OK and the other is just kind of going be to languishing out here.”
Not all board members agreed with Fullhart, but all agreed the needs at the proposed Wayne Township elementary, where district growth is more robust, are more urgent than those in Delaware Township.
“There is an urgency (for the Delaware Township project), it’s just not as urgent as it is in (Wayne Township),” Bourff said. “That is definitely a higher sense of urgency among the administration. It solves some of the enrollment and space issues.”
Board and administration officials said both projects would result in redistricting at the elementary level, but specifics were not discussed.
“The impact of this decisions is to set a maximum rate that could be paid. It doesn’t obligate you to pay that rate. It just sets a maximum rate, and it doesn’t obligate you to do either project,” said David Day, an attorney with Church Church Hittle and Antrim and the district’s legal counsel. “There are a lot of things that have to happen between now and the time to do the project. This is the step that sets in motion the opportunity for members of the community to file and seek a referendum on these bonds.”