The Brown County Schools Board of Trustees has decided how to use a bond it’s planning to take out later this year.

Two schools’ entryways will be renovated, and sturdy metal posts will be placed in front of every building to make them more secure; every school’s ventilation system will be replaced; and some updates will be made to technology equipment, including the Chromebooks students use.

The board is advertising for proposals from organizations that might work with the district on those projects.

At the Thursday, Feb. 15 board meeting, a public hearing will be conducted about the projects and taking out the bond that would fund them.

This new bond would replace an older one that rolls off the books this year. That $6 million loan was taken out more than six years ago from the state when Brown County was not receiving property taxes.

To keep the tax rate neutral, the plan is to add a new $3 million bond in place of the $6 million bond, Hammack said.

A smaller amount is being borrowed this time, but it will be paid off over a shorter period — three years and eight months.

Hammack said the district is looking to spend most of the money in ways that make students safer.

“I would say security is our No. 1 area of focus for this particular process,” Hammack said. “In this day and age, we really take it as our primary responsibility.”

Plans include remodeling the entryways at Brown County Intermediate School and Brown County Junior High School, which are the only two schools that do not have buzz-in entrances. One of those remodels is likely to happen this summer and the other next summer, she said.

Van Buren Elementary School also will get a video security system.

Bollards also will be placed in front of all of the school buildings so that vehicles can’t crash into them. The bollards — sturdy, vertical metal posts — also would help to prevent accidents like the one that happened in northern Indiana in 2016 when a principal was killed while trying to protect a student from a moving bus, Hammack said.

“We have them right now in front of the intermediate school, and we’re loving them because it’s just kind of an extra layer to prevent any sort of accident,” she said.

The district also plans to look at improving security “as a whole” by implementing better door locking systems and putting bulletproof sheeting on school building windows.

“Most of our buildings were built in the ‘50s when this was the last thing that we were thinking about,” Hammack said.

Technology work would include updating wiring and switches in buildings and replacing the Chromebooks that junior high and high school students have in three or four years.

Hammack said the district is in the process of distributing Chromebooks to younger students and will continue to do so when new Chromebooks arrive. She said the district also is looking into getting tablet-like devices for students in kindergarten through second grade.

“The bond funds would potentially be used to assist purchase of these devices for our younger learners,” she said.

Students in the third through 12th grades will ultimately have their own Chromebooks, but a timeline on that distribution will not be finalized until the end of the year, Hammack said.

Replacing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in each building also is a goal, but a longer-range one. That work will be done on a rotating schedule, replacing one or two buildings’ systems each summer. “You really don’t want that work happening during the school year because that really affects negatively the experience of the student in the classroom,” Hammack said.

Not all of the projects will happen in 2018, and it will take a few years to complete them all, she said.

Hammack said the district plans to continue to take out new bonds after older ones are paid off to address building needs. Structuring the school’s debt this way keeps the tax rate consistent, she said.

“This rate structure is going to help us meet the needs of running our buildings and nothing more. I feel like this is a really reasonable and responsible notion for the district,” Hammack said.

“It allows us for us to keep these buildings up to standards that I think Brown Countians expect of their schools, but not be flashy or over-the-top about it.”

Author photo
Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.