Northeast Dubois begins plans for new gym


DUBOIS — A new gymnasium is on its way to Northeast Dubois High School.

At a public work session Monday night, George Link of VPS Architecture of Evansville presented a concept drawing to the Northeast Dubois School Board for phase two of construction projects currently underway at the school. The drawing shows a 20,000-square-foot addition to the front of the current high school that will house a new gym, locker rooms, a weight room and potential presentation space. The addition is part of the current high school’s transition to Northeast Dubois Junior-Senior High School, which will house seventh through 12th grade beginning this fall.

Monday night’s work session was the latest in a series of events that began in late 2018 when the school board began looking at systemic changes to eliminate the need for a second property tax referendum. The current referendum, which voters approved in 2016, expires in 2024.

Link partnered with the board at the beginning of the process, leading the school and community through a planning study that ultimately resulted in the board voting to close Celestine Elementary and reconfigure the corporation in three buildings beginning this fall. The new configuration will be seventh through 12th grade at the current high school, third through sixth at the current middle school and pre-K through second grade at Dubois Elementary.

The schools will also get new names. The high school will be Northeast Dubois Junior-Senior High school; the middle school will be Northeast Dubois Intermediate School; and Dubois Elementary will be Northeast Dubois Elementary.

In preparation for the change, the board dedicated a bond issue of $4.3 million toward remodeling the high school building to house seventh through 12th grade. Construction on that project — which includes a new addition for Project Lead the Way programs, renovated science labs and a hall dedicated to seventh and eighth grade — began at Thanksgiving.

Phase two of the project will call for a second bond issue of $4.3 million. Neither bond issue will cause a rise in the property tax rate since the corporation has old debt falling off to make room for the new bond issues, Superintendent Bill Hochgesang said.

There is no project timeline for phase two yet, but Link said he would expect construction to begin in mid or late summer. Right now, the project is in the earliest stage and is no more than a concept drawing.

“When we come back, it’ll look different,” Link said.

Figuring out what changes to make was the main purpose of Monday’s meeting. After Link presented the concept, board members, administrators and members of the public offered feedback. Suggestions included adding a training room off the high school gym, coaches offices and drop-down walls to turn the gym into a multipurpose athletic facility. A popular suggestion was using the current high school gym for seventh and eighth grade and building a new gym for high school students.

High School Principal Tina Fawks stressed the need to ensure that the older parts of the building also receive facelifts so that when work is completed, the entire school looks uniform and is up to date. Board members agreed.

“You don’t want to come out of this and have the haves and the have-nots,” Board Member Shawn Dooley said.

That would mean replacing cabinetry and flooring in many of the classrooms and repainting. Some of that work could be done outside of the construction bond issue, as the school sets aside money annually for maintenance.

Hochgesang also expressed his desire to update the school’s main entrance, which will be near the new addition. The current entrance is around 40 years old, and Hochgesang said it looks it. He shared that his brother was recently in town for his 40th high school reunion and commented that the building looks the same as when he left. Hochgesang wants to change that.

“I want it to look modern,” he said.

Middle School Principal Ryan Case and Elementary Principal Tara Rasche also shared their wish lists for their buildings in light of the coming reconfiguration.

Case said the classrooms for the third- and fourth-graders will likely need more storage. Currently, classrooms at the middle school have one storage cabinet, but elementary classrooms have four. Case said he’s heard from several teachers that will move to the middle school that they are concerned about storage space. Case also said cubbies for the third grade classrooms would be helpful, as well as some new paint and other general maintenance.

Case’s big-ticket item was addressing warping in the middle school gym floor caused by drainage issues.

Rasche’s wish list was relatively short. In addition to general maintenance jobs like new paint, she’d also like additional lighting around the building and exterior security cameras.

While the upcoming bond issue is unlikely to cover most of what the principals had on their wish lists, according to the board, the corporation can look to its regular budget to fund many of the items. But they will still have to happen over time.

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