Growth spurt: Mt. Vernon school district considers building or renovation for new elementary


It’s no secret that the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. district is growing.

“We’re going to be growing a lot in the future,” Supt. Jack Parker said. “We contracted with a demographer a couple of years ago who predicted we would grow 2,000 students in the course of 10 years.”

The enrollment of 4,338 in 2019-20 is expected to grow to 6,235 by 2028-29, according to the demographer. Parker addressed the growth in a Dec. 3 Zoom presentation with the community.

“Our next decision as part of our future growth plan is, do we build an elementary school from scratch or we do we renovate our current administration building, which years ago was an elementary school back, into an elementary school?” Parker said.

Parker said the decision can’t be made without understanding all of the other variables, so the district has hired Lancer + Beebe, LLC, a construction management firm, to work on the scope of the future growth plans to see what the possibilities are before making the decision on the next elementary school.

“They’ve done a great job putting this together, and (it) helps put in perspective what we choose to do as we manage the growth in our district,” Parker said.

The 2020-21 enrollment is slightly below the demographer’s projected enrollment.

“We had a smaller growth while many districts had a decrease in enrollment,” Parker said.

Parker said many kindergarten parents have chosen to hold their children back a year amid the pandemic.

“We’re likely to see a boom with our kindergarten enrollment just next year,” he said.

The Community Champions initiative was started in August 2019 to engage the community. More than 300 attended to offer feedback on formulating a growth plan.

“We met at least monthly with our Community Champions advisory committee to go over the thoughts and feelings of the community and develop recommendations on how to move forward,” Parker said.

Committee supports adding intermediate school

The advisory committee, which has nearly 50 members, presented the recommendations to more than 200 community members in February.

“The scope of this plan was to focus on, how would the district manage growth and what would the grade configuration look like?” Parker said. “They recommended we would move back to an intermediate school.”

Mt. Vernon has three elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth grade, a middle school with three grades and a high school.

“We are working on reconfiguring elementary schools to go to just grade four and reinstituting an intermediate school with grades fifth and sixth, and then we would have a middle school with only two grades, seventh and eighth,” Parker said. “The idea is you are allowing room for growth in your middle school by peeling a grade level off of that. You are providing growth in our three elementary schools by peeling a grade off all those.”

Parker said intermediate school building already is top-notch.

“It was used as immediate school just a few short years ago and it’s Fortville Elementary School,” he said.

The building was converted into an elementary school when the school had budget issues and the elementary schools were reduced from six to five grades. It has large hallways, a large cafeteria, band room, choir room and a large gym.

Parker said although the school might need to expand capacity, it was designed as an intermediate school. Then, turning Fortville into an intermediate school would require a third elementary school.

“Our Community Champions committee determined even with peeling a grade off the middle school, a little more capacity will be needed at that school,” Parker said. “We don’t have the luxury of building something early and waiting for it be filled. We’re going to be very careful and very conscious of what we need to build. We are focusing on what we need, not what we want. We need to have capacity in the quality facilities to educate our students.”

Parker said with the pandemic and the slowdown in the economy, there likely will not be a new school for the 2023-24 school year, which was projected to be completed for that year on the district’s growth plan. Another element of a future growth plan is a high school renovation to increase classroom space in the 2024-25 school year.

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