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Community may tour school buildings Saturday

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

It has been one month since New Castle schools called together volunteer groups of educators, parents and concerned citizens to form a long-term planning task force.

New Castle Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Matt Shoemaker told the school board Monday that more than two dozen people took advantage of a building tour May 12.

This tour covered Westwood, Sunnyside, Parker and Riley Elementary schools and the Raintree Education Center (REC).

The second leg of the facilities tour starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Wilbur Wright Elementary School, 1950 Washington St.

Shoemaker hopes that many more people attend this Saturday’s building tour because it will include an up-close look at New Castle Middle School.

“We’ve got to make decisions and a lot of it hinges on what we want to do with the middle school,” Shoemaker said.

The New Castle School Board previously discussed moving city sixth graders to the building, as well as redesigning the interior.

“That middle school piece is going to be really, really important,” Shoemaker said, “so I’m hoping we get a good turn out for that.”

On the topic of buildings, former educator John Lee raised some concerns about Sunnyside Elementary School.

Lee has long questioned the board’s decision to send some children from the Sunnyside neighborhood to Eastwood Elementary School. He again asked the board Monday to move those classes back to the S. 14th Street building.

School board member Travis Callaway said making a decision like that, especially now that the planning task force has started their process, would be premature.

“I think the whole point of this task force is that we don’t make a knee-jerk reaction,” Callaway told Lee. “We might do something that we would regret.”

Board member Liz Whitmer encouraged more parents and community members to get involved with the task force. Whatever options the long-term planning task force comes up with will be the voice of the community, she said.

Saturday’s facilities tour will include Wilbur Wright and Eastwood Elementary Schools and New Castle Middle and High Schools. 

The task force committees will meet again at 6 p.m in the New Castle High School east cafeteria. Members of the public are invited to attend and to contribute to the discussions.

The entire task force will meet at 6 p.m. June 5 to hear a presentation by Jane Herndon from Ice Miller regarding financing school projects.

To learn more about the NCCSC long-term planning task force, contact the NCCSC administration building at (765) 521-7201.

NCCSC Assistant Superintendent Bo Pheffer told the school board Monday about the various projects that he and his staff have planned for the summer months.

Some work will be done by New Castle maintenance and custodial crews, while some larger projects will be contracted out, Pheffer said.

Along with roof replacement at the high school, interior and exterior painting projects are planned at several buildings, including the Fieldhouse. 

The most noticeable work may be a building project at Westwood Elementary School. Workers will build a classroom and second large room in the Westwood library as the school prepares to receive local kindergartners in August.

Riley Elementary School’s computer lab will also be converted to a classroom in anticipation of kindergartners.

Pheffer said both schools will have their art and music rooms sound-proofed, as well, to create quiet learning environments for the young students.

Guardrails will also be installed at the New Castle High School south parking lot. New Castle schools have already started installing safety guardrails at Westwood.

Pheffer pointed out that the summer project list is fluid and could change over the next few weeks.

While all those projects are going on, the NCCSC custodial staff also has a full list of deep-cleaning projects for the school buildings that they will be taking care of before August, Pheffer said.

Pheffer oversees groundskeeping operations, as well. He has already received a couple phone calls this year asking about the dandelions growing around different schools.

Pheffer explained Monday that New Castle schools do not spray weed killer. Those chemicals could be dangerous to the kids who walk through or play in the grass, he said.

The school board also moved its July meeting back a week so the meeting wouldn’t interfere with Independence Day vacations for the corporation’s full-time staff.

In other business, the New Castle School Board accepted some minor changes to the middle school and high school student handbooks.

Shoemaker told them that proposed changes to the student-athlete “Trojan Code” should be ready by the June meeting.

The next New Castle School Board meeting is at 7 p.m. June 11 at 322 Elliott Ave.