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Questions answered about middle school project

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The New Castle School Board presented a summary Monday night of a plan to seek $33.5 million to essentially rebuild the city middle school from the inside out.

The public hearing offered local taxpayers the chance to ask questions or share concerns about a the school corporations plans.

No one from the public attended the meeting.

New Castle Superintendent Dr. Matt Shoemaker provided a look back at the district’s decision to overhaul New Castle Middle School.

The proposal was born from a long-term planning task force of parents, teachers and community members.

The task force suggested New Castle Community School Corporation renovate the middle school to improve safety and instructional integrity, while also making room for all the city’s sixth graders.

Moving the sixth grade to the middle school would open room in the elementary buildings for preschool classes, as well, the task force reported.

The New Castle School Board approved a list of projects in May that would be funded by a 20-year $33.5 million bond.

The middle school project would include: a more secure entrance, with visitors going through the main office before they can access the rest of the building; a “school-within-a-school” that would keep all sixth graders separate from the older students; and a new auxiliary gym on the back of the building.

The remodel would also allow for athletic guests and spectators to access the restrooms on that side of the building without being able to get into the rest of the building.

“It must be noted that the driving force behind the middle school renovation is to make it a much safer campus,” Shoemaker said.

Traffic patterns at all the buildings will be studied and improved with the money, and security camera coverage will be increased as needed.

Shoemaker said the 20-year bond would also pay for security improvements at the Fieldhouse, renovations at Bundy Auditorium and lighting needs at Neal Field.

If the bonds are approved, more detailed planning can start in July. The middle school project could begin June 2020 and be done by December 2021.

During the renovation planning phase, the only change parents and students may see will be to the NCMS traffic pattern. By reversing the traffic flow, students can be dropped off and picked up on the sidewalk, rather than having to walk in front of other cars.

The next public hearing on the proposed $33.5 million bonds is at 7 p.m. Monday, June 10, prior to the regular school board meeting, at 322 Elliott Ave.