By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A new pool may be in the cards for Goshen Community Schools after all.
Members of the Goshen Board of School Trustees Monday gave their blessing to the pursuit of a $17.15 million renovation and construction project. That project would include building a new pool at either the middle school or high school as well as the expansion of various music, physical education and classroom areas.
The next step for Goshen school officials? Working to garner enough petitions to get the building proposal on a referendum to be voted on in a special election this fall.
The move follows the recent announcement by organizers of the proposed Goshen Community Center that the proposal has been withdrawn and will no longer be pursued due primarily to cost concerns. The Community Center would have included gymnasiums, numerous health-focused programs, as well as several pools. Those pools would in turn have been used by Goshen Community Schools for its swimming program, and the corporation’s two aging pools — one at the middle school and one at the high school — would have been closed and converted into additional music and classroom space.
With the Community Center project officially a bust, GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth noted that the needs of the corporation regarding the aging pool areas and additional space needs are still very real, and need to be addressed.
With that goal in mind, a hearing took place Monday in which school officials presented their new plan and heard comments from the public.
According to Woodworth, the foundation of the proposed project has actually been in the planning stages for several years, and has its origins in a 1997 remodeling project at the high school that left the school’s music areas short-changed on space.
In order to alleviate some of those space issues, a plan was formulated in 2007 to build a new 5-6 building for the corporation that would also include additional renovations and expansions at both the high school and middle school, though that plan eventually fell through do to a lack of support from the community at the time.
“So the actual renovation piece of this, the high school and middle school renovation pieces, have actually been in the planning stages since 2007,” Woodworth said.
Couple that with a significant and steady increase in the number of students participating in GCS’s lauded music programs, Woodworth indicated, and some form of expansion needs to be done. That’s to avoid a reduction in both participation and quality of the programs moving forward, she said.
As for the pool areas, Woodworth said that as the pools have aged, it has become increasingly costly and manpower intensive to keep them operating — a task she said typically costs the corporation about $200,000 per year on average. By tearing out the old pools and replacing them with one new pool, Woodworth said, the school corporation will save on annual maintenance costs while also gaining access to much-needed additional music and classroom space at both the middle school and high school.
“So we just believe that this is an economical, more fiscally efficient option,” Woodworth said, “to move to actually having one pool to maintain, rather than two.”
Among the first members of the public to comment on the proposed project Monday was Goshen resident Bill Rieth.
“I am very supportive of this project,” Rieth said. “The arts I think are critically important to our kids’ development. I think they add to creativity, which is vitally important to be competitive in our culture and in our world today. We need to do all we can to support them. I can’t think of a better investment for our community.”
Also speaking in favor of the proposal Monday was GHS Music Department chairperson Marcia Yost.
“Obviously I’m very in favor of this, and I feel like we need to move forward,” Yost said. “I would invite any of you to visit us on a regular day of business. When we’re all there, it is a mess. Fortunately, our staff likes each other, and we are forever having to juggle rooms. So we live like that on a regular daily basis, and we’re not getting smaller. I would hate to think that at GCS we would get to a point where we would have to put caps on how many students we can accommodate in our arts programs because of the room. We’ve got good educators, good music educators, but if we don’t have the space, it doesn’t matter how good our educators are.”
The proposal’s estimated $17.15 million price tag would most likely be funded either through Capital Projects Fund money and/or a Building Corporation Bond Issue, with an anticipated impact on the Debt Service Fund tax rate of roughly 11 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
Several examples of what such a tax rate increase might look like were presented at the Monday meeting. For a $75,000 home, that tax rate increase would mean an increase of about $18 per year in taxes, while the owner of a $101,500 home would see an annual increase of about $37 per year. For a $200,000 home, that increase would be about $107 a year, while the owner of a $300,000 home would be looking at an increase of about $179 a year.
Due to the scope of the proposed project, Woodworth indicated, the next step in the process is to secure enough petitions to get the proposal on a referendum to be voted on in a special election this November. Woodworth said that process will begin immediately, following which a referendum question will be created and submitted to state officials for approval.
“So today they approved the project going forward to the next step,” Woodworth said of the school board. “It’s basically just saying ‘Yes, we approve this.’ So the next step is the referendum vote in November seeking voter approval for the project.”
Following 11 years of service to the corporation, board member and current vice president Jon Jesse announced his resignation Monday. Jesse indicated that he will be relocating out of the corporation’s boundaries, thereby becoming ineligible to continue serving on the board.
“It is with reluctance that I recommend that you approve this,” Woodworth said of Jesse’s resignation. “Jon’s been a great board member and its been a pleasure to have him as part of our board. He will be sorely missed.”
In recognition of his past service, board members presented Jesse with a special certificate and clock commemorating his 11 years of service to the board. Jesse also got to take home his framed photo that has been hanging in the board room since he began his service to the school.
“It’s been a true honor to serve the corporation,” Jesse said. “We have a great board, we have a couple newcomers on the board with a lot of experience, great questions, staff, faculty, administrators, cooks, custodians... with one focus in mind, and that’s for the betterment of our students. So we’ve got a lot of good things going, we’ve got some rough water ahead, but you’re going to address it head on, and make the right decisions at all times for the betterment of the students and for the corporation.”
With Jesse’s resignation, the board must now begin the process of filling his vacated seat. As an at-large position, board president Jane Troup indicated Jesse’s position can be filled by anyone within Goshen Community Schools’ boundaries.
Letters of Interest should be received no later than Tuesday, June 25, and will then be reviewed by the board with interviews to follow. Letters should be addressed to Jane E. Troup, board president, Goshen Community Schools, 613 E. Purl St., Goshen, IN 46526-4044.
Appointment by the board to fill this vacancy will be by majority vote of the full board. The term for this appointment will end Dec. 31, 2014.
Applicants are encouraged to review policies 0140 and 0144.2 located on the GCS policy website, http://www.neola.com/goshen-IN prior to the interview.