Former Orchard Park Elementary site could be used for CCS employee child care, green space 

The original version of this story misstated the cost of upgrades to the culinary area at Carmel High School. The cost is $1 million. 

A portion of the building that previously housed Orchard Park Elementary could be repurposed as a site offering child care for Carmel Clay Schools employees, with the rest of the facility being demolished, according to a recommendation from district administrators discussed at the Dec. 12 school board meeting. 

The recommendation calls for refreshing the part of the building constructed in 2006 for special-needs preschool students for use as the district’s third Edu-Care site. The program has a lengthy waiting list, and some potential CCS employees have turned down job offers because their young children wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot, according to Assistant Supt. Thomas Oestreich. 

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The 12-acre site of the former Orchard Park Elementary campus is proposed to be used for Edu-Care, storage area and green space. (Image courtesy of CCS)

If plans are approved, the Edu-Care program is set to add space for 86 children, a nearly 40 percent increase. CCS aims to have the space ready in December 2023. 

The school board is expected to vote on the recommendation, which is projected to cost $3 million, in January. It is being proposed as part of a $34 million bond that also includes upgrades at Carmel High School and several elementary schools. The bond is expected to be paid off in eight years and is not projected to alter the district’s tax rate. 

The plans are also contingent on a ruling from a Hamilton County judge on whether the district should have made the building available to charter schools for $1 after the elementary school closed. Indiana Classical Schools Corp., which aims to open Valor Classical Academy in the building next fall, sued CCS in April, and a ruling is expected before the school board votes on the recommendation. 

State law requires vacated school buildings be made available to charter schools for $1. CCS claims it did not violate the law because it has been using the building for storage and training space since OPE closed. 

CCS closed Orchard Park Elementary after the 2020-21 school year after opting to build Clay Center Elementary five miles northwest instead of renovating the aging building. In June 2021, CCS announced its intentions to lease the site to Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation to develop a park, but CCPR pulled out of the deal after Indiana Classical Schools filed its lawsuit. 

Other changes proposed at OPE include a 6,000-square-foot addition for storage and space for the central district maintenance team. CCS Associate Supt. Roger McMichael said the new construction would be designed to complement the portion of the existing building that would remain. 

“We’re quite aware (the building) is in a neighborhood, so it would be consistent with the existing space we’re talking about for Edu-Care,” McMichael said. “It would be an attractive facility and sensitive to the area it’s located in.” 

Much of the building proposed to be demolished would be replaced with green space. CCS Supt. Michael Beresford said plans for the 12-acre site align with feedback gathered from residents who live near the school. 

“The plan is consistent with what their favorite (options) were. They were concerned about what it would look like and the green space they’d enjoy there,” Beresford said. 

Upgrades proposed at Carmel High School 

The proposed $34 million bond includes upgrades at Carmel High School to expand and improve space for students learning about construction, culinary arts and other job-related skills. 

The school board is considering $9 million for a 14,000-square-foot Polytechnic addition proposed on the northwest side of the building to house advanced construction and automotive programs. More than 100 students interested in the programs this year were unable to take the classes because of lack of space, CHS Principal Tim Phares said. 

Similarly, nearly 200 students interested in the culinary program were unable to enroll this school year because of space constraints. Plans call for spending $1 million to renovate the culinary area, which includes installing a commercial-grade kitchen.

Phares said he expects to have room for all students interested in the construction, automotive and culinary classes once the renovations are complete. 

The bond also calls for $1 million to upgrade radio and television broadcasting equipment and make minor renovations to the space. 

If plans are approved, work at CHS is expected to begin in October 2023 and be complete by October 2024. 

Other projects in the bond include $5 million for mid-cycle renovations to the freshman center, including replacement of wall and floor finishes, landscaping and paving; $3 million for outside mid-cycle renovations at Creekside Middle School; $4 million for mid-cycle renovations at College Wood, Prairie Trace, Towne Meadow, West Clay and Forest Dale elementary schools; and $4 million for technology upgrades.