Strategic plan doesn’t end with high school

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The talk around the future of Noblesville Schools has recently begun its second round, but the discussion is not limited to just the number of high schools.

With the opening of Promise Road Elementary School in August, Supt. Libbie Conner believes the district is set at the primary grade level for several years, but the secondary level is of concern.

A feasibility study on Noblesville Middle School was completed in March. Connor said classrooms sizes are smaller than present standards and most lack natural light, the elevator is not easily accessible to instructional areas, the restrooms need updates and the roof, windows and exterior doors need replaced. The total estimated cost is $17 million.

“We can continue to spend hundreds of thousands (of dollars) yearly to keep applying ‘Band-Aids’ for another decade,” Conner said.

Alternatively, the district can retrofit the Freshman Campus as a middle school to get about 20 years of service. The cost for construction is estimated at $15 million – a new middle school would cost $40 million.

“It’s a much better facility with much better bones,” Conner said.

If the Freshman Campus is retrofitted, Conner said interest has been shown from several organizations and the city to turn the middle school into a community center, which could utilize the auditorium, cafeterias, gymnasium and classroom space.

“Its large spaces could be a good asset for the community,” she said. “It would have to have some work done … half to two-thirds of the building could be a great asset.”

While no one likes the idea of seeing his or her tax bill increase, the creation of a community center would be a pleasant outcome of addressing the educational needs of Noblesville Schools. A group of residents have been asking for an opera house in downtown Noblesville for several years, and the community center could be the next best thing – especially since it would be located just eight streets north of the Square. The cafeteria could be used for banquets, the auditorium for local theater or dance recitals, classrooms for adult or continuing education courses and the gymnasium for youth sports.

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