HUNTERTOWN — Students returning to Oak View Elementary School will barely recognize sections of the building this fall. Northwest Allen County Schools is currently taking on a construction project at the school that will include several reconfigurations and renovations — culminating in approximately 12,000 square feet of updated space.
The project funds were included in a referendum passed by voters during the May 2018 primary election, which also included the new elementary school being constructed on Hathaway Road in Huntertown. The measure also funded security improvements at Perry Hill, Hickory Center and Arcola elementary schools, though Oak View’s is the most extensive project, NACS Chief Communications Officer Lizette Downey said.
Creating a secure entrance — which requires visitors to enter the main office before having access to other parts of the building — was the catalyst examining other ways to streamline the flow and effectiveness of the school. The construction will be completed in two phases by Schenkel Construction. The first phase, which is scheduled to be completed by tomorrow includes work on the school’s cafeteria, library and teacher lunch room. The second phase involves the main office and secured front entry, which won’t likely be completed until Aug. 30 — about two and a half weeks after school starts. Students will use a temporary entrance in the meantime.
The project came with an added bonus — the creation of a new classroom — a pleasant surprise to the district as its number of portable classrooms grows to six, NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel said during a recent meeting of the Board of School Trustees.
“No classrooms have been negatively impacted and we managed to create roughly 1,000 square feet for an additional classroom,” NACS Chief Operations Officer John Miller said.
The new classroom will also include a designated area for small group interventions.
“With all the growth that’s going on in the district, it’s great to be able to create a classroom space like this,” Oak View Principal Jamie Wilkins said.
In order to open up the new classroom space, some space was taken from the school’s teacher’s lounge, conference room, and cafeteria storage and vestibules. Teachers will have a larger workroom to house items used to supplement instruction, such as copy machines, a laminator, poster maker and other supplies.
The cafeteria will also be “more visually appealing for students, staff and visitors for functions after school,” according to a news release. The cafeteria has also been outfitted with a new ceiling to improve acoustics, as the current cafeteria was originally designed as a gymnasium and wasn’t conducive to noise control.
“The new cafeteria is more inviting for students,” Wilkins said. “The students, teachers and lunchroom staff will appreciate better sound absorption thanks to the special ceiling tiles.”
The school’s refurbished media center will include more flexible seating, while having the same amount of room for book storage as it did before the project. The space used to house offices. Part of the school’s library will also be converted into a work room, nurse’s station and principal’s office, next to the front entrance.
The Oak View project did not include adding any new space to the school — just repurposing old space.