New High School Recommended
This article appeared in The Post & Mail Wednesday, April 19, 2006
New H.S. recommended
Jenica Schultz, Staff writer
Columbia City High School needs to be replaced, according to a feasibility
The CCHS Task Force, a committee of community members evaluating the high
school's future, recommended to the Whitley County Consolidated Schools school
board Tuesday that it buy land in another location for new facilities.
The task force has been meeting since October to study and debate the building's
CCHS was built in 1958 and has had several additions throughout the years. It is
landlocked at its current location.
While the task force presented an option of expanding the high school at its
current site, it showed the expansion was not practical. In order to obtain
enough land, WCCS would have to buy at least 10 adjacent properties from
homeowners. Parts of the existing school would be demolished and rebuilt while
classes continued in the building nearby.
“It would be a very long process that we felt would be very difficult on the
students and the teachers,” said Martin Klimek, a task force member. “This was
not the option the task force would recommend.”
The task force recommended building a high school that would accommodate 1,200
students, with expansion possibilities for 1,600 students. While the enrollment
number at the school has been consistent the last decade, Klimek pointed out
that a new high school may draw more citizens to the school district.
Klimek said the high school was in need of expanded athletic facilities and a
swimming pool, something the current site could not accommodate.
A new high school would need approximately 65 acres at a new location. The task
force had talked about building it on the Indian Springs Middle School campus,
but more land needs to be acquired.
The task force found the current high school cramped and outdated with few
expansion possibilities. A new high school would allow for space and technology
“We'd have all the new nice things we'd like to have in a new school,” Klimek
Mark Gareiss, another task force member, told the school board WCCS could afford
a new high school without affecting its interest rates.
“It needs to be structured in such a way that's not as big a burden to the
taxpayers,” Gareiss said.
A new high school could cost as much as $80 million. Owners of $96,000 homes,
the median home value in the school district, would have their property taxes
increase by approximately $211 a year for $80 million borrowed.
Gareiss said the tax rate would even out in the future as other school loans are
“I hope we do the right thing for our children,” Gareiss said.
Representatives from Educational Services, an educational company facilitating
the school's evaluation, said the school needs major renovations. On a national
scale rating school facilities, CCHS earned a score of 50 out of 100 points.
Schools with scores below 45 should be completely replaced.
“We looked in every corner,” said Don Dyck of Educational Services. “Basically
it needs major improvements and is close to ... needing to be replaced.”
WCCS last evaluated the high school 10 years ago, and nothing was done. With
rising construction costs and a decaying school, Klimek said something has to be
“We said we can't do (nothing) because that's what was done 10 to 12 years ago.
We have to do something now,” he said.
The school board will review the task force's 41-page feasibility report over
the next month and reconvene to discuss the findings. If the school board is in
agreement with the task force, it will still be some time before construction
begins. Cost studies must be done on the construction. A quick timeline would
have the new high school completed in 2010.
“I think it's important to think of this whole process as a very first step,”
said Superintendent Dr. Laura Huffman.
In other school board news:
The elementary schools gave an interactive presentation on Connecting Learning
Assures Student Success, a method of teaching focused on brain-based learning.
Teachers demonstrated the method through three hands-on demonstrations.
The school board adopted new textbooks and fees.
The school board adopted new software for extracurricular accounting.
school board accepted a bid on Washington School from Terry Hollenbaugh, who
bought one tract of the property for $25,000 and the other for $3,000.
Hollenbaugh plans to turn one part of the property into a business, and the
other into a park.