By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — Warsaw Community Schools’ Board of Trustees heard updates on the district’s facility plans during a meeting on Monday, Feb. 22.
Baker Tilly Partner Todd Samuelson and WCS Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert each gave informational updates on the school district’s plans. These discussions are continuations from the school board’s January meeting, during which Hoffert presented an update on the district’s facility study.
Priorities in that facility study for Warsaw Community High School and Warsaw Area Career Center include safety and security, academic classrooms, internal flow and student learning spaces. In 2020, approximately 30 classrooms at the high school were renovated. Classroom renovations included updates to carpet, paint, lighting, ceiling, HVAC systems and electrical outlets.
At the meeting, Samuelson discussed WCS’s financial preparedness for upcoming projects while Hoffert talked about staff focus groups and their thoughts on the district’s future plans.
In his brief informational update to the board, Samuelson said Baker Tilly has been rather conservative with assumptions at this point but said bonds for the school district’s larger projects would not be issued until 2022.
“The debt structure for the school corporation has been set such that after 2022, the debt service payments for the corporation start to decrease rather materially in the year 2023 and beyond,” said Samuelson. “So that creates a significant amount of capacity to take on payments for the proposed bond issue.”
Samuelson estimated the projects’ amount at $30 million, which would be repaid in about 16 years. He also noted there would be no impact on the school community’s tax rate.
“Interest rates right now are extremely favorable for issuers,” said Samuelson.
Samuelson will be at the school board’s March 9 work session for consideration of resolutions regarding the school’s proposed lease financing.
With the staff focus groups, Hoffert said all agreed that each of the facility study’s priorities are important and need addressed. He noted one major concern was overcrowded stairwells at WCHS, especially during drills.
“The term that kept coming up was ‘our school needs a main artery,'” said Hoffert. “It’s something that’s always been missing inside our school.”
About 13 classrooms are set for renovations this summer. There are more than 125 classrooms within WCHS. Hoffert said some teachers have asked why all classroom renovations don’t occur within one year.
“One reason is you only have so much space and time,” said Hoffert. “We utilize every moment of that summertime to get in there and work inside our buildings. The other piece that goes into it is managing our tax rate and making sure we are fiscally wise for our taxpayers and our community.”
Hoffert said he hopes to present a solidified plan of the school’s facility projects during the board’s March meeting.
“This is a long-term plan, this is a long-term investment in our schools,” said Hoffert. “I feel like we’re hearing what our teachers’ needs are, what our students’ needs are.”
The school board also learned that as of Feb. 22, 13 certified teachers have submitted resignation letters to be eligible for a $25,000 retirement incentive. The incentive was approved during the board’s January meeting for certified teachers that have worked at WCS for 10 years.
WCS’ Board of Trustees also recognized the Burket Fire Department for donating air packs to WACC’s fire rescue program. Fire Rescue Teacher and Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Public Information Officer Max Kinsey, Burket Fire Chief Kevin McSherry, and WWFT and Burket Fire Department Lieutenant Shade Keeney were present at the meeting.
“When I go out and see the kids on site training, they’re always ready to get into and utilize the gear,” said WACC Assistant Director Jill Jackson. “And these are kids who are never begging to do those types of things, so it’s really exciting to see that.”
Hoffert also mentioned at the meeting that WCS’s athletic department will be holding its second annual online auction from 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go back to the athletic teams that participate. Items available in the auction include golf rounds at area country clubs, a personalized signed copy of ‘The Bachelor’ star Ben Higgins’ book and gift cards and gift baskets from local stores.
The board’s next work session is at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, at the WCS central office. The next regular session is at 7 p.m. Monday, March 16, at a yet to be determined location.