SYRACUSE — During a special Wawasee school board meeting held at the unusual time of noon Tuesday, March 22, in Syracuse the board approved awarding a construction bid of $1,096,900 to Milestone Construction of Syracuse for renovations at Milford School this summer.
Architect Brian Bohlender of Barton-Coe-Vilamaa noted there were two bids submitted for the Milford projects. He said that is not unusual because it is anticipated to be a busy construction year. Milestone was the lowest bidder and has done work previously in Wawasee schools. “I see no reason not to grant them this bid,” he said.
Milestone’s base bid was $1,088,000, but with three alternatives eliminated the total contracted cost will be $1,096,900. Projects at Milford School will include a total renovation of the kitchen area, renovating the small gym so it can be used as an eating area, too, if needed, renovating old group restrooms from the original 1954 building, an awning for the bus waiting area, some work in the mechanical room and renovations in the main gymnasium to include new basketball goal baskets and a new sound system, among other work. In addition, two computer labs will be torn out and the area renovated for other uses.
In other business, the board approved awarding $135,121 for upgrading infrastructure throughout the school corporation to prepare for the start of the 2016-17 school year. When school begins in August, each student and teacher will have an electronic device but upgrades are needed to be ready.
Dave Van Lue, director of technology for Wawasee schools, said the total cost will actually be $450,402 but a 70 percent discount is available through the Universal Service Fund of the federal government. He noted the discount, if awarded in full, won’t be given until the fall, though, and in the meantime a loan will be applied for to cover the $315,281 difference.
Van Lue said the upgrade will include upgrading the wireless network, having a wireless access point in every classroom, upgrading the connectivity to 10 gigabytes and increasing the bandwidth capability to a total of one gigabyte, or two sections with a capacity of 500 megabytes each.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved adding a retirement incentive for teachers. Dr. Tom Edington, Wawasee superintendent, said there have been changes in teacher contracts at the state level and some teachers have asked about the incentives. A tax free account will be set up and each retiring teacher would be given approximately $30,000, or the equivalent of two years cost for health insurance. General fund money will not be used, he added.
In other business, the board approved a resolution saying Wawasee is not willing to participate in a test pilot for next year’s ISTEP+ testing. Edington said it is the school corporation’s understanding, based on input from school corporation attorney James Flecker, the test pilot would only be offered to certain schools and selected students in those schools. “We interpret the law to mean this (test pilot) would not be offered statewide,” Edington said.
Other school districts have indicated they plan to refuse to participate in the pilot, he added. Board member Mike Wilson noted it doesn’t make sense to have a test pilot for a test being discontinued after next year.
And Edington said the school corporation is asking for an exemption to the state fire regulations concerning the metal exterior canopy to be installed at Milford School this summer.