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Bond money could improve school security

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The New Castle School Board started the process Monday to pursue a new $2.5 million general obligation bond.

New Castle Community School Corporation Business Manager Megan Bell explained that this new debt would be replacing old debt that NCCSC is about to pay off.

“It’s not adding debt to our current (tax) levy,” Bell said. “It’s maintaining our current rate.”

Local property taxes will not go up, she said.

Bell also explained that if the school board allowed the existing debt to completely fall off NCCSC’s books, the school corporation would lose that money next year. Even if that happened, annual property tax bills would not go down.

“It (the tax revenue) would go away to the city or the county,” Bell said.

Assistant superintendent Lisa Smith has started working on ways to use that bond money to improve safety at a couple New Castle elementary schools.

Smith told the school board Monday that it will cost about $1 million to upgrade the entrances at Eastwood, Parker and Wilbur Wright schools to make them safer for students and staff.

Smith said the bond money could also be used to repair roofs throughout the corporation.

Starting Sept. 25, New Castle students who stay after school will be able to take a bus home.

Superintendent Dr. Matt Shoemaker said the secondary activity bus will shuttle students from New Castle Middle School to “landmark locations” throughout the city at 4:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. each afternoon.

“If we have kids in the high school, kids in the middle school, if they’re in sports, if they’re in drama... a whole list of things that they’re involved in, we’ll have a way to get them home,” Shoemaker said.

The superintendent said athletic teams will have to watch the clock and make sure practice is done by 5:30 p.m. so kids can get on the bus. 

Shoemaker explained National Honor Society students also provide an after-school tutoring program for elementary students in the high school media center that wraps up around 4 p.m.

After-school supervisors could cost the corporation about $9,000, plus the additional costs for the bus drivers.

“To me, that was a cost that was pretty cheap to get kids who don’t have transportation back and forth,” Shoemaker said.

School board member Liz Whitmer pointed out after-school transportation could create more opportunities for students, which could help them become more personally connected to the school.

“That, to me, translates to student success,” Whitmer said.

In other news, the NCCSC long-term planning task force will meet again at 6 p.m. Sept. 18 in the New Castle Middle School community room.

The various chairs of the task force subcommittees plan to answer 35 follow-up questions they received at the last meeting.

Shoemaker said the New Castle School Corporation will also unveil its new website and social media marketing during the Sept. 18 task force meeting.

Presentations from the previous long-term planning task force meetings can be found at www.nccsc.k12.in.us.

Shoemaker also announced Monday that New Castle schools will begin using e-Learning days after Christmas Break.

Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 are marked on the school calendar as snow makeup days. After that, if the weather gets bad enough to cancel school, New Castle schools will use “e-Learning days” and let students complete that day’s lessons from home.

“I think that’s going to be accommodating to our families and for our employees as well,” Shoemaker said.

The school board conducted public hearings on the 2019 bus replacement plan, capital projects fund plan and corporation budget. The board will vote on those plans at their next regular meeting.

The New Castle School Board meets again at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at 322 Elliot Ave.