The Whitley County Board of Education authorized construction of a freshman academy for the high school, a new roof for the middle school, and a field house for the new soccer complex during its monthly meeting Thursday.
Renovations at the high school, which include the new freshman academy, replacing the heating and air-conditioning system throughout the school, and installing air-conditioning in the gym are expected to run about $8 to $9 million.
If construction prices are low enough, Whitley County Superintendent Lonnie Anderson said that the school system would also like to construct an auditorium at the high school, but its fate is currently uncertain.
School officials plan to apply for federal economic stimulus money to help pay about 10 percent of the project.
"I don’t know if we can get any of these funds," Anderson told the board. "There’s not really a down side to applying. We would avoid the cost of interest."
Unlike other construction bonds, the money would have to be paid back in 15 years rather than 20 years but would be interest free, Anderson said.
If stimulus funds are approved, it would save the school system about $800,000, Anderson estimated.
Construction bonds are used to finance most government building projects and are the equivalent of a home mortgage for private property owners.
The district has about $8 million in bonding capacity.
The high school is expected to have 1,300 students enrolled by the end of this week, which Deputy Superintendent Scott Paul noted is the most that he can remember there. Paul is a former principal and assistant principal at the high school.
"I know we are all in agreement that it is something that needs to be done," said Board Chairman Delmar Mahan.
The board declared an emergency so that they could expedite construction of a new roof at the middle school and have it complete before winter.
"When it rains, it rains inside the school," Anderson said.
Officials project that the new roof will cost about $235,000 and have a 20-year warranty.
The field house for the soccer complex will include restrooms, locker rooms and a concession stand.
"We’re hoping to have them ready to use by spring soccer season," Anderson noted.
He added that the fields are in good shape and that a drainage system and a sprinkler system are slated to be installed soon.
In other business, the board:
¥ Accepted the pre-audit financial report from finance officer Leigh Burke. The district ended the last fiscal year with $488,000 more than what was left over the previous year. The contingency fund is about $2.7 million, which is up from the projected $2.4 million. 87 percent of the budget goes for instructional salaries and supplies, she noted.
¥ Agreed to pay half the costs for lockers and 75 new desks at Oak Grove Elementary School with the school picking up the rest of the tab from its budget.
Oak Grove has record attendance with about 750 children enrolled in preschool through sixth grade. It is now the second largest school in the district, Anderson said.
¥ Approved leaves of absence for Felicia Bates, Stacy Carman, Judy Petrey, Trina Partin, Carol Mills, Amber McKiddy, Peggy Hamblin and Brenda Sutton.