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Columbine locks for Elkhart classrooms are a priority with referendum money

After winning public support in two referendums last week, Elkhart Community Schools has $47 million... and a lot of work to do. The school board recently discussed which projects will get done first.

Posted on May 13, 2014 at 9:06 p.m.

Elkhart Community Schools has $47 million and a really long to-do list.

After getting two yes votes from the public in the primary election May 6, the school corporation has the money it needs to start working on construction projects, safety upgrades and a new transportation plan.

The school board discussed what projects will be tackled first in its meeting Tuesday evening, May 13.

Shawn Hannon, spokeswoman for Elkhart schools, provided some details about which projects will happen right away and which ones will happen over the next few months and years in an interview prior to the board meeting.

"The first things that will happen are the security locks," she said, referring to mechanisms that allow teachers to lock classroom doors from the inside, without opening the door.

These are called Columbine locks, named after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. 

Another project using referendum money that will happen soon is the installation of an upgraded PA systems at Central and Memorial. 

"(The PA systems) are 40 years old in those buildings,” Hannon said. “Our security audit showed those were not sufficient for an emergency.”

The school corporation also hopes to have some projects done before the end of 2014.

Those include roof replacements at North Side, Hawthorne and Central — the goal is to complete all three by October, Hannon said. 

Also in 2014, the “open-concept” cafeteria at Memorial will be enclosed and a safer entryway for the Tipton Street Center will be constructed. 

Exterior lighting and interior gates that lock and unlock different parts of the school buildings depending on the time of day will be added this year, plus new asphalt and masonry repairs on some buildings.

Bigger construction projects, including building offices and closing open classrooms at several schools, will start in November and hopefully be done by July 2015, Hannon said.

Transportation changes were not discussed by the school board on Tuesday because school officials are still discussing how that will work, Hannon said. 

A new transportation plan will likely be a topic in an upcoming board meeting.

Tony Gianesi, director of building services for the corporation, presented the schedule of construction projects at Tuesday’s meeting.

He said the goal is to complete about $17 million worth of projects in the next 30 months.

Superintendent Rob Haworth indicated that people can stay updated on projects through the Yes4Elkhart group, which will continue to share news about Elkhart schools and the referendum projects with the community.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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