WATERLOO — The DeKalb Central school board Tuesday received an updated proposal for facility improvements at J.R. Watson Elementary School in Auburn.

The proposed project includes a new, larger cafeteria and kitchen and renovating an enclosed courtyard into educational space.

The project had been part of a larger proposed $37.6 million school facilities upgrade that voters in the school district rejected in May. That proposal had included improvements to three school buildings, upgrades to outdoor athletic fields and a new fieldhouse for activities.

Now, the district is considering immediate facility needs and future long-range planning. It has identified the improvements at Watson as an immediate need, along with replacing the boilers at DeKalb High School.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Steve Teders and Chief Financial Officer Steve Snider reviewed the Watson project and why it has been deemed an immediate need.

The cafeteria is too small to meet the needs of students and current meal times stretch from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., the board heard. There is one double-sided serving line, and students are no more than 10 feet away from the food preparation area and hot surfaces. A larger cafeteria would provide more flexibility with meal scheduling and give students more time to eat, the board heard.

The courtyard is currently in unusable condition, versus the potential of a being a learning environment, the board heard.

Brian Bohlender of Barton Coe Vilamaa architects and engineers presented figures based on spring 2020 bidding that showed the estimated cost of the cafeteria work would be $3.46 million, courtyard renovations would be an estimated $575,000 and soft costs would be $787,875. With the costs of issuance at $122,125, the total project cost would be $4.95 million, the board heard. It would be financed by a general obligation bond.

Jim Elizondo of Stifel Public Finance proposed two bond repayment options. A five-year pay-off with payments beginning in 2020, would see a total repayment of $5.39 million. A six-year pay-off, also beginning in 2020, would result in a total repayment of $5.62 million, Elizondo said. Neither option would result in an increase to the 2019 debt service tax rate, the board heard. In both cases, new debt would be added as existing debt is retired.

The six-year repayment option would allow more flexibility and capacity for other district projects that might become necessary, without increasing the debt service rate, Elizondo added.

A tentative timeline shows a project hearing will take place at the Sept. 17 board meeting with the additional appropriation hearing and final bond resolution scheduled for the Oct. 22 board meeting. If the project is approved, bids would be accepted and awarded in spring of 2020 with groundbreaking tentatively scheduled for June 2020, the courtyard completed in August 2020 and the kitchen and cafeteria completed in the winter of 2020-21, the timeline showed.

Also Tuesday night:

• Snider reported the district has received a $142,000 state/federal grant to be used toward the purchase of additional propane buses.

• The board authorized Snider to advertise the district’s 2020 budget with an estimated total of $38.84 million. The budget hearing will take place Sept. 17 and will be adopted Oct. 22. At those meetings, the board will review the 2020 budget and how it compares to prior years, Snider said.

• The board approved a Sept. 20 study trip to the Spangler Candy Factory in Bryan, Ohio, for the DeKalb High School Principles of Marketing and Sports Entertainment Marketing classes. Students will learn how Spangler handles licensing, contracts, distribution and channel management and will be able to tour the distribution factory and speak with the marketing director. The board also approved a study trip to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village for high school U.S. history students.

• The board recognized the district’s food service department for receiving a United States Department of Agriculture “Turnip the Beet” bronze award for its summer feeding program.

• In personnel matters, the board accepted the resignations of: McKenney-Harrison Elementary School paraprofessional Diana Collins; bus driver Karl Kearns and high school boys basketball assistant coach Jason Purdy.

The board approved the appointments of McKenney-Harrison intervention paraprofessional Morghan Pugh; high school band paraprofessional Randy Lemish; food service employees Lisa Mettler and Lisa Shearer; bus drivers Greg Raub, Dobie Opper and Emily Prosser; bus assistant Jessica Smith; and central office data analyst and Indiana state reporting specialist Stacy Cunningham.

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