by Brandon Beard
In accordance with social distancing guidelines due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the North Spencer School Board met virtually last Tuesday, April 14, for their regular monthly meeting.
A large portion of the meeting was spent learning about the details of potential major renovations at all North Spencer schools. Dale Wagner and Brittany Black of Gibraltar Design were on-hand to offer their guidance and considerations for the project.
Renovations at Chrisney Elementary and David Turnham — the schools that would benefit from the majority of the work — would include updating building signage and brick benches outside both schools; replacing the roofs and refreshing the exterior metal facades; installing more energy-efficient windows; upgrading classroom HVACs with Vertical Unit Ventilators (which are cleaner, quieter systems that would allow each classroom to have its own thermostat) and updating the gymnasium HVAC; modernizing the schools’ media centers/libraries to include an activity hub, story area and meeting space; and updating classrooms with new ceilings and doors, wall and floor finishes, markerboard and tackboards, new walls between the classrooms in order to reduce sound transfer from room to room, and additional power sources. The exterior emergency lighting at Chrisney would also be replaced.
Lincoln Trail and Nancy Hanks would also see some renovations as well, with the replacement of wall and floor finishes and additional power sources in classrooms.
“They’re going to look like brand new schools when we get finished with all of this,” Wagner reported.
A revamping of the high school media center was also mentioned as a potential project and would include the construction of an instructional space, collaborative learning space, a large conference room, testing stations, and more storage areas for books, as well as a remodel of the circulation desk.
The preliminary estimated construction cost of the project (including the renovations at all five schools), if approved, is $10.6 million. Two public hearings are required to be held to allow community members the opportunity to express their opinions or concerns about the potential renovations; as of right now, those hearings are expected to be held sometime in May and June. The board would then approve advertising for bids, with January 2021 being the projected date to award contracts for the projects.
New HHHS assistant principal named
Also during the meeting last Tuesday, the school board unanimously approved the appointment of Kate Kress as Heritage Hills High School’s newest assistant principal.
Kress, a graduate of Forest Park High School, holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education Grades K-12, as well as a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education with a Focus in Reading/Literacy Instruction. She will receive her Graduate Certificate in Principal Licensure from Indiana Wesleyan University in August.
Kress is a long-time educator in the North Spencer School Corporation, having worked at David Turnham since 2006 (as a Special Needs teacher from 2006-2008 and as a third grade teacher the last 12 years).
“I am humbled and excited about the opportunity to stay in North Spencer to work with our corporation’s oldest students and their teachers as the assistant principal at Heritage Hills,” Kress said.
With schools closed through the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students are still participating through eLearning at home and senior students will, of course, still be graduating. Superintendent Dan Scherry explained to the board that students are required to participate in and complete 160 days of learning, including seniors who will be graduating this spring.
“The one thing I keep telling our teachers to pass on to their students is that we’re just looking for effort right now,” Scherry said. “If you don’t understand it, just try. Reach out and try.”
Scherry expressed gratitude for teachers and staff who are doing what they can to make the best of this situation.
The board also unanimously approved the passage of a resolution for wage payments to non-certified staff during the emergency school closure. Non-certified staff are now being paid based on an alternate schedule of hours and new duties during the school closure, including online training, working in food service and delivering meals. Some staff members are also making medical masks, writing letters of encouragement to students and working the homework hotline.
Board President Brian Gehlhausen offered his praise to North Spencer teachers and staff at the close of the meeting. “I’d like to go on record and say that we’re all impressed with our administrative teams, teachers, teacher’s aides, cafeteria workers, bus workers. The entire corporation has pulled together and impressed us with their ability to change and make eLearning possible during all this. It’s humbling to be a part of it, from the board’s perspective. Hopefully in August we’ll be more back to normal than not, and if not, at least we know we’re in good hands and our students will be taken care of.”