Carmel Clay Schools is considering $106.5 million in bonds for several projects, including expansion of the Carmel High School performing arts facilities, a new natatorium and upgrades to several athletic facilities.
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to financial uncertainty for school districts, Roger McMichael, CCS assistant supt. for business affairs, said the projects are needed to responsibly maintain the school’s public property. He said delaying them would likely lead to costly maintenance and repairs.
“It’s likely that in an unfortunate time like this we very well may receive very competitive bids,” he said. “These estimates were projected before the crisis, so we think it’s very possible when the bids come in for these projects that they would be lower than what’s initially estimated here, which provides a very good value for the taxpayer.”
The projects are not expected to lead to an increase in the tax rate. Repayment of the bonds would begin in 2022, and they are scheduled to be paid off within eight years.
“We would hope that the economy would begin to recover by then and certainly well before these projects would be paid off,” McMichael said.
Per state law, the projects will be funded through local property taxes, which are typically more stable than other forms of taxes, especially during a crisis. Funding for teachers comes from the state primarily through sales and income taxes.
The school board reviewed the plans at its virtual May 18 meeting. The following is an overview.
CHS performing arts
CCS expects to spend more than $25 million to renovate and expand performing arts spaces at CHS. In addition to renovating the auditorium and several other areas, walls would be expanded to the south and east to provide 17,000 square feet of additional space.
CHS Performing Arts Dept. chair Chris Kreke said the performing arts programs are bursting at the seams with “no possibility for expansion” within the existing building. The number of students enrolled in band and orchestra and other programs have more than doubled since the band and orchestra complex was completed in 1993, he said.
Kreke said storage space is limited, leading to valuable items sometimes being kept in hallways or along room perimeters, further decreasing available space and causing security issues.
The expansion and reconfiguration would create a larger space for orchestra rehearsals, a new large rehearsal space and additional storage space.
The auditorium is proposed to receive a mid-life renovation with new seating, lighting and acoustical upgrades and mechanical fixes. The studio theater will be relocated east of the auditorium, which will open up space for large choir rehearsals.
CCS is planning to spend $43 million to expand its natatorium by adding a 50-meter competition pool and zero-depth entry diving well. The new facility will be built north of the existing one and connect to it through a corridor. Construction is expected to begin in March 2022 and be complete by the end of 2023.
The existing natatorium is proposed to receive nearly $5 million in renovations, including the replacement of filtration equipment and humidity control equipment. Work is expected to be done during the first half of 2024, after the new natatorium is complete.
McMichael said the new pool will become the district’s primary competition pool, with the existing one set at a higher temperature and used mostly for recreation.
The project also includes expanded parking north of the new natatorium.
CHS Athletic Director Jim Inskeep said the number of swimmers in CCS programs has risen from 180 students in 2005 to more than 500 this year.
CCS is proposing spending nearly $19 million to upgrade several athletic facilities.
Improvements at the CHS football stadium, which opened in 1991, include a new restroom, concession and locker room building south of the field; upgrading stadium lighting to LED; and renovating existing restrooms, the press box and locker rooms. A grass practice field north of the stadium will be repurposed for shot put and discus events. These projects are expected to be constructed between February and June 2023.
At Murray Soccer Stadium, which is used for soccer and lacrosse, proposed upgrades include adding permanent bleachers at the south end of the field, upgrading to LED lighting and extending the end zone net for lacrosse. Construction is planned for summer 2021.
Upgrades at the Hartman Field Baseball Complex include installing artificial turf on the varsity field; upgrading to LED lights; renovating the varsity field press box and dugouts; adding dugouts and installing permanent bleachers and a press box at the junior varsity field; reconfiguring the entrance and adding parking spaces. Construction is expected to occur between June and October 2021.
Upgrades at other facilities
Several projects are planned at sites other than CHS, including reconfiguring the north parking lot and renovating the running track at Carmel Middle School; renovating the running track at Clay Middle school; replacing the lobby skylight at Forest Dale Elementary; installing a rubber safety surface at the Towne Meadow Elementary playground; replacement of the heating, cooling and ventilation system at the Carmel Life and Learning Center; improvements at the transportation facility; and update of the temperature control system at several buildings.
These projects are expected to total more than $3 million. The projects at the elementary and middle schools are expected to be completed during the 2021 summer break, with the other projects completed by mid-2022.
Other CHS projects
Additional projects at CHS include a new 84-space parking lot off of the school’s main drive just south of Smoky Row Road; improvements to the culinary arts classroom; upgrading parking lot lights to LED; replacing seats in the planetarium; and replacing chillers and boilers.