The Carmel Clay Schools board of trustees approved a resolution June 14 to partner with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation to transform the Orchard Park Elementary property into a park amenity.
It’s too early to know what the end result might look like or when it would open to the public, but the resolution formalized the partnership and allows both entities to officially begin exploring the possibilities.
Orchard Park Elementary closed for good at the conclusion of the school year in May. CCS officials had been researching uses for the property since the school board voted in 2018 to close the aging building and open a new school — Clay Center Elementary — 5 miles to the northwest. Other options proposed for the site included using it for college-level education classes, an incubator for new businesses or as a community center.
“We are thrilled to partner with the Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation in turning the Orchard Park Elementary School property into a park with a structure that can be utilized by the community and the schools,” CCS Supt. Michael Beresford said. “This was a top pick in our conversations with community members. We are excited about working on next steps with the CCPR team.”
CCS will likely continue to own the property, which would be managed by CCPR, according to CCPR Director Michael Klitzing. Both entities could use the property for programming and events.
In part because the school is only a mile from the Monon Community Center, it’s unlikely the entire building will remain standing, Klitzing said.
“I’m not sure there’s enough identified need within parks, unless there are other partners that come to the table, for a roughly 92,000-square-foot facility. Is there potential for portions of the building to remain? That is definitely being explored,” he said. “We’ll want to do a feasibility study to best assess if the structure or components of it are the best use or if there are more cost-effective (options) if we were to demolish and build something new. I don’t have any preconceived notions as to which is the best route to go.”
After conducting the feasibility study, CCPR expects to develop a master plan for the property as they do for other parks. Klitzing said CCPR will work with Clay Township and the City of Carmel to identify possible funding sources for future improvements.
The parks board has yet to take action on managing the property, but Klitzing said he expects agreement with the CCS resolution.
“This is probably the most logical and beneficial partnership to pursue for both (CCPR and CCS),” he said. “It’s something I know I fully support, and there is strong interest from the park board.”
CCS plans to hold a tribute event for former Orchard Park students, teachers and families on Sept. 19.
District officials are working with the Carmel Clay Historical Society to develop a monument to memorialize the years Orchard Park Elementary served the community.