In late 2016, Floyd County voters passed an $87 million referendum that will fund renovations of nine schools. What’s the progress on these projects?
By Josh Suiter | Courtesy Photo
In November, Floyd County voters passed a referendum that will fund renovations of nine of the county’s 16 schools. The projects range from slight renovations to two buildings being torn down and rebuilt. The $87 million worth of projects will come from property taxes, though residents will not experience an increase in what they currently pay. Superintendent Dr. Bruce Hibbard took the time to answer our questions about the overall progress.
EXTOL MAGAZINE: Can you describe some of the major projects from the referendum?
DR. BRUCE HIBBARD: The first project that has begun is the Highland Hills Middle School new car rider line. The new pick-up/drop-off area is in the rear of the building that is currently not being used. This will provide improved safety for our students and should enhance the experience for our parents with shorter wait times. The second project that will begin shortly is the new Green Valley Elementary School. It will be built behind the current school. The Prosser project is in the final design stage and will be bid soon. This autumn demolition will begin on the Slate Run Elementary site. Floyds Knobs, Greenville and the New Albany High School projects will begin next year.
EXTOL: When do you all anticipate the projects to be finished?
HIBBARD: With moving Slate Run Elementary to Graceland Baptist Church, we anticipate the projects to be finished in 2019. (The corporation is leasing space from the church beginning the 2017-2018 school year until the new Slate Run is completed)
EXTOL: How do you feel these projects will benefit the schools, the students, staff and community?
HIBBARD: In the 1980s, I had the privilege of being on a staff that opened a brand-new middle school. It replaced a school that was built in the 1930s. The students, staff and community had a great sense of pride about the new building. For the next few years after the opening, the staff continued to give tours of the school.
I anticipate much of the same for our projects once completed. The major projects will provide our students with state of the art schools that will enhance their learning and safety. I know that students and staff will take great pride in caring for their new buildings.
EXTOL: How will these projects impact our community and the schools long-term?
HIBBARD: In this era of competition for students, these projects will enable our community to compete for families moving to the area and those that currently live here. The projects will also allow the district to have greater flexibility in balancing our enrollment in our elementary schools. In the long term, our district will be able to utilize our capital project funds to improve the buildings that are not a part of the referendum.
EXTOL: Some of these schools are being completely renovated and in some cases, torn down and rebuilt. How will the transitional period work for these schools?
HIBBARD: Green Valley Elementary is being replaced with a building that is being built directly behind it. Fencing and a separate drive will be used to keep our students and staff safe during the construction phase. Slate Run Elementary students will be moved to Graceland Baptist Church while their new building is constructed. Prosser is a much more complex enterprise. New buildings will be constructed first, then programs will be relocated. The areas vacated by relocated programs will be renovated. It is like playing chess.
EXTOL: What was your reaction to the public’s support for the referendum?
HIBBARD: I was really pleased with the support considering the outcome of the election in general. It was an important win for our students and the region considering this was the first major construction referendum passed in Southern Indiana. Hopefully, other communities will be able to follow Floyd County’s lead.
EXTOL: What do you think led to this success?
HIBBARD: A group of about 30 people that worked countless hours. We ran a political campaign. It started with the help of the Winston and Terrell Group. They helped us with community outreach. After that, our leadership team met with individuals and groups and explained the merits of the projects. Then the Mayor of New Albany, Jeff Gahan, endorsed the referendum. His endorsement was a pivotal moment for our district’s success. The New Albany City Council soon followed with an endorsement. The builders’ association and the realtors’ association were early endorsers as well. Simultaneously, Families for Floyd County (a political action committee) began its work. Under the leadership of Michele Day, the PAC began working really hard to spread the message. For several months, we worked at the New Albany Farmers’ Market. Further, we had a major presence at Harvest Homecoming. Promoting materials were delivered to Floyd County neighborhoods by supporters.
EXTOL: How do these projects help with economic development in our community?
HIBBARD: With $87 million being spent on the projects, a lot of it will be spent on the wages of the workers. Moreover, the schools will help revitalize the neighborhoods in which they reside. New schools are a huge selling point for parents. I anticipate parents buying homes in the Slate Run and Green Valley neighborhoods. Of course, this will improve the infrastructure of our school district.
School board meetings, which are open to the public, are held the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m. and a work session is held the fourth Monday at 6 p.m. Both meetings are held at the Education Support Center, 2801 Grant Line Road in New Albany. These meetings typically include an update on the projects and provide for public comment during the meeting.