Seymour Community School Corp. announces $52.45 million project


The time has come.

After more than a decade of completing smaller addition and renovation projects at all of its school buildings, Seymour Community School Corp. is ready to expand on a much larger scale.

School officials have announced plans for a $52.45 million project to transform the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center into an intermediate school for both fifth- and sixth-grade students and to make major changes at Seymour High School.

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The project addresses the need for more classroom space, improves safety and security of students, increases accessibility to school facilities for people with disabilities and expands opportunities for music, career and athletic programming.

After an eight- to 10-month design phase, construction would begin in 2022 and would take one and a half to two years to complete with fifth-graders starting at the new intermediate school in 2023.

Superintendent Brandon Harpe will introduce the project at the next school board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the high school cafeteria.

A community forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the SHS auditorium. Social distancing and masks will be required.

“We will have our architect available and answer any questions at that time,” Harpe said.

Taxes won’t go up

Remarkably, the improvements are coming at no additional cost to taxpayers.

SCSC currently has a property tax rate impact of 76 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Brownstown Central Community School Corp.’s tax rate is 95 cents, Crothersville’s is 98 cents and Medora is 1.91. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. in Columbus has a tax rate of 85 cents. The state average is 1.06.

“Our rate is by far the lowest of any school district in our area and in our conference,” Harpe said. “It’s also one of the lowest of any school district in the state. That’s something we’re very proud of.”

Of SCSC’s 76-cent tax impact, about 31 cents will be eliminated in the next few years as the 20-year bonds for the Seymour-Redding and Seymour-Jackson elementary construction are paid off.

The new project will replace around 28 cents of that debt. If approved by the school board, bonds will be issued later this year to fund construction.

“The school board and the administrators have managed this tax rate for greatest efficiency and effectiveness, putting the school in a place that this entire project can be completed without any change to the tax rate or tax increase,” Harpe said.

Long overdue

Historically, since Seymour’s first high school was built in 1853, a major expansion has come about every 21 years. The last major renovation at SHS was the auxiliary gym in 1996, making the current project five years overdue.

In the last eight years, enrollment at SCSC has grown 23% and reached a record 5,250 students in the 2019-20 school year.

“Our enrollment is what really brings us here today,” Harpe said. “It has just exploded. While most schools in the state are projecting a drop in enrollment, we’re continuing to project an increase.”

In the next six years, officials expect enrollment to grow by another 500 students, and that is a conservative number, Harpe said.

The district is currently using portable trailers for classroom space to address this growth with three trailers at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School and one at Redding. That could increase to four at Brown and two at Redding depending on what the numbers look like this school year.

“We’re running out of places to put them,” Harpe said of the trailers.

By removing the fifth grade from the elementary buildings, it will free up enough classroom space to continue to grow, he said.

Adding on

The intermediate school model is one that has proven effective in other communities, including Franklin and Ferdinand.

It’s also more cost-effective than building another elementary or middle school or adding on to all five elementary buildings and expanding the sixth grade center, Harpe said.

Besides updating the facility, which once served as the old Jackson Elementary, with a new cafeteria and kitchen, library, gymnasium, band and choir rooms and main office, the project will more than double the number of classrooms from 15 to 38.

“The state recommends a minimum of 900 square feet per classroom, and we want to meet or exceed that in this project,” Harpe said.

At the high school, a minimum of 25 new classrooms will be added to meet today’s educational and space requirements, Harpe said.

“Our classrooms are undersized,” he said. “Many of them are smaller than what we have at the sixth grade center. We have major issues with our classrooms and how they are laid out.”

Also being added at SHS are small group instruction spaces and two large group instructional rooms for lectures, testing and meetings.

Last year, some students had to do testing in the school’s baseball hitting facility and the auditorium, Harpe said.

With an enrollment of 1,550, SHS is bursting at the seams. During passing periods, the hallways have become uncomfortably congested, and there aren’t enough lockers for every student.

“We have bottleneck and chokepoints throughout the building,” Harpe said.

As part of the project, a new corridor will be added to relieve hallway congestion and allow for additional lockers.

Another problematic area is the cafeteria. With a current capacity of 400, students are spreading throughout the school to eat lunch during three different lunch periods.

A new cafeteria and kitchen is planned that will double the capacity and allow students to get their food quicker, giving them more time to eat.

Also, new band and choir rooms and an indoor practice area will be added to meet the school’s huge demand for the performing arts.

“We’re over 250 in choir and 250 in band,” Harpe said. “They are so big they are using the auditorium as their classroom. They’ve outgrown their rooms, and there are accessibility issues.”

Both the band and choir also have run out of room for storage, he added.

The main entrance to SHS will be moved from Community Drive to West Second Street, which is actually the official address of the school. The principal’s office will be connected to student services for improved efficiency, Harpe said.

Addressing safety

Besides enrollment, there is a need to address several safety concerns at the high school.

Currently, students must walk outside of the building to get to the gymnasium, which is an issue the school board has discussed for many years.

The breezeway between the auditorium and gymnasium will be enclosed, providing added security for students.

All food deliveries will be made to the new kitchen/cafeteria, eliminating truck traffic from behind the school where students currently walk.

And a new, larger weight room will be built onto the auxiliary gym to keep students from having to walk across the student parking lot to the stadium for strength and conditioning classes.

Updates to the world’s largest high school gymnasium, which was built in 1970, also are planned to address structural issues and to add air conditioning, an elevator and new roof. Restrooms, water fountains and concession stands will be updated, too, but the look and seating capacity of the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium will not change, Harpe said.

The 50-year-old high school pool, which currently is leaking and causing other problems, will be replaced, too, and the pool complex renovated with proper ventilation to create a safer environment for swimmers and to improve accessibility.

A possible alternate that could be included in the project if there is enough money is an added fieldhouse with multipurpose courts for basketball, volleyball, wrestling and tennis and additional locker rooms.

That facility would be built onto the auxiliary gym, eliminating four tennis courts, and would include an indoor track also available for public use for walking.

Besides the sixth grade center and high school, money also is being invested to expand the Seymour Ag-Science and Research Farm, which was built in 2017.

Located in the Freeman Field Industrial Park, the facility has become a satellite campus for SHS and has allowed the district to offer additional graduation pathways and expand career and technical education opportunities.

“We see a time in the very near future where some students stay out there for the entire day,” Harpe said.

The greenhouse will move from the high school campus to the ag-science and research center and more classroom and lab space will be added.

“We have all this area in the future we could expand into and make that a real career and technical education center out there,” Harpe said. “Local CEOs are very excited about this aspect of the project and the future curriculum opportunities it will allow.

“This entire project is student-focused, and the goal is to continue to expand graduation pathways and opportunities for our students and continue to grow the tremendous community partnerships that we have.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Seymour Community School Corp. public forum on a proposed $52.45 million expansion and renovation project

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Seymour High School auditorium

Social distancing and masks are required. Anyone without a mask will be provided with one.


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