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11/22/2018 10:50:00 AM
Greater Clark awards $11.5 million contract to build downtown Jeffersonville school

Erin Walden, News and Tribune Education Reporter

JEFFERSONVILLE — Work on a new downtown elementary school in Jeffersonville could began as early as next month thanks to a recent vote by the Greater Clark County Schools Corp. board of trustees.

The board awarded a $11.5 million construction contract to Illinois-based CORE construction during its Tuesday meeting. With the contract approved, the district could break ground as early as December, superintendent Andrew Melin said.

The process of building a new elementary school began in the summer of 2017, when it was revealed that the district planned to close Spring Hill and Maple elementary schools and move those students to nearby schools. At the time, the district cited the cost of maintaining two aging buildings with dwindling student enrollment. When the word got out, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore asked the district to reconsider, saying the move could stall growth downtown. 

Together, Moore and Melin announced a plan to build a new school to house current Maple and Spring Hill students and any future students that may live in the downtown area. In June, the district went through a signature drive and gathered enough signatures for the project to move forward.

Renderings and blueprints show a facility comprised of both a renovated Jeffersonville High School Gym (also known to some as the old Corden Porter) and new construction, tied into the Nachand Fieldhouse. 

The design includes three classrooms for each grade level K-5, a pre-kindergarten classroom, several special education classrooms and a media center.

The design also includes “accidental learning spaces,” Tara Murphy, graduate architect, said.

A softscape playground will sit on the school grounds and a hardscape play area will go where the Franklin Square building currently sits. Between the two, Franklin Avenue, currently an alley, will become a two-lane one-way street and will be the location for car-rider drop-offs and pick-ups. The current Corden Porter parking lot will become shared parking for the two schools. Buses will line up on Court Avenue, where there is currently street parking. 

The kitchen is situated close to the Nachand Fieldhouse, which will serve as a gym for the school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. thanks to an interlocal agreement with the Jeffersonville Parks Department. The close proximity will allow the school's kitchen and staff to help with food during Nachand events, Melin said.

One element of the design that may change is the location of the cafeteria. Current blueprints show the cafeteria inside Nachand Fieldhouse.

“We are lucky that the parks board is so willing for allowing us to consider that, but it’s one area we want to take a second look at because that could be somewhat problematic,” Melin said. “If there tables set up for the cafeteria inside Nachand [Fieldhouse], and Nachand has an event that evening, would we have to put those tables every day? It’s something we started to think a little more about. That’s one area of the design we want to look further into to see if that is where we want that cafeteria to be.”

An eye-catching component of the design – a bright orange slide in the atrium – is meant to both catch the attention of families who pass by the school and serve as a reward system for students.

“... slides are fun. We want education to be fun. We want to make sure there’s a reward system built in, so it’s not like everyone can go down the slide whenever they want. .. it'll be open and available to students who have earned that opportunity,” Melin said.

Though the contract was for $11.5 million, the district will still bond for $15 million – anything more would require a referendum vote. The rest of the funds will go toward financing fees and the cost of furniture and technology for the school. The board unanimously approved the contract.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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