Construction continues as curriculum changes are on horizon
After a summer of construction, hard hats will still be worn around Noblesville Schools’ buildings, but work within the district will not be contained to bricks and mortar in 2012. Supt. Libbie Conner and her central office staff explained the work being done outside and inside the classrooms during her annual State of the Schools presentation to the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year, but we’ll continue to look forward,” said Conner. “We are excited about the future.”
Conner said 478 community volunteers are in the schools in some way every day, and 11 community partners like Riverview Hospital, Teachers Credit Union, SMC, Community Hospital, Faith, Hope & Love, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, Janus Developmental Services, City of Noblesville and the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce help provide a reciprocal relationship between students and the community.
“The future of Noblesville Schools involves more student collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking with you as our future business partners,” Conner said.
Test Results and Curriculum
“Noblesville continues to outpace our Indiana peers (in ISTEP+),” said Melissa Brisco, director of instructional technology and information services.
However, Brisco pointed out the growth was not steady.
“We’re looking at programs and practices to see what we are doing,” she said, specifically identifying seventh grade. “In both English and math, we’re not making the progress we should. Our goal as a district is to say at least 90 percent of our students are passing ISTEP+.”
At the earliest education level, Noblesville Schools began a full-day kindergarten program this year. Brisco said 534 students are enrolled in the full-day kindergarten, while 233 are taught half day.
“We’re laying a very solid foundation for the rest of their education,” she said.
In the fall, Noblesville will transform the intermediate school into a second middle school. Annetta Petty, director of curriculum and instruction, said the transitioning to sixth, seventh and eighth grades will allow the middle schools to provide world-class programs and opportunities for students.
“We’ve created a schedule that adds 65 to 70 minutes of core instruction per day for seventh and eighth grade,” she said. “It’s monumental to add an hour (of instruction) into the day.”
Other curriculum changes include all eighth-grade students being taught Spanish 1, and rotations including project-based learning, personal financial responsibility and advanced art and wellness.
“All contribute to a real leap forward,” Petty said.
Petty, who served as Noblesville High School principal until her promotion in August, said the Class of 2011 earned 2,055 college credits, had a county-high 94.8 percent graduation rate and earned $2.5 million in scholarships.
As a way to better prepare students for the future, Petty said the district is investigating alternative pathways including Early College Program, Achievement Academies, Career Partnerships/Internships and College Readiness.
In 2010, Noblesville residents approved a $63.6 million referendum to support construction at nine buildings. The construction was divided into two phases – renovation at present schools and the construction of a new elementary school. A majority of Phase 1 was completed in August 2011, but additions at NHS and Noblesville Intermediate School are scheduled to be done in July.
“There is more capacity at elementary schools for fifth-graders and full-day kindergarten,” said Director of Operations Jeff Bragg.
Bragg explained the $33.6 million of Phase 1 construction added 99,766 square feet and 291,613 square feet of renovations. He added Phase 1 included 15 separate additions, which added 37 classrooms and renovated 63 classrooms.
“There have been no change orders resulting in any additional costs,” said Bragg, adding the upgrades done should save the district money in the long run. “Hinkle Creek, Hazel Dell and Stony Creek (elementary schools) will see Energy Star savings after the first year.”
Phase 2, the construction of Promise Road Elementary School, will be completed in August. Bragg said Promise Road, which is estimated to cost $16.2 million, will have a capacity of 750 students – “right in line with other elementaries.”
Conner said the district has identified four areas of consideration for future work – Noblesville East Middle School, the Transportation Center, Center Office and NHS. Conner said the present middle school has “real physical issues” that need to be addressed. The Transportation Center, located behind the Central Office, houses 107 buses and needs to be moved for safety issues.
“It’s an aged facility and we’ve outgrown it. It needs to be moved off campus,” Conner said.
As important as the referendum question was years ago, the Noblesville community should be prepared for the most important decision facing the district – one high school, or two.
“We’ve reached capacity at our high school. We have 2,500 students at two buildings,” said Conner. “It’s going to be time very soon for you to make a hard decision and it’s going to be an expensive one.”
Conner said if the public’s opinion was to build a second high school, it would take four to five years to construct, with a price tag of approximately $120 million. She added the operating cost for a second high school would approximately be $1 million each year.
“We’re growing 200 students a year the last two years. The growth is coming in middle school, not kindergarten,” Conner explained.
The other option is to add to the present high school. Conner said the district has expressed interest in the armory, which is located between the high school and Central Office, but the sale of the 10 acres must be approved by federal and state governments.