Greensburg Salem School District eyes exterior upgrades, long-term facility plan

Jun. 18—Exterior improvements are being considered at several Greensburg Salem school facilities, but district officials are just starting to come to grips with potential longer-term building needs.

Building improvements are of particular importance to a district parent and teacher, who voiced to the school board concerns about Nicely Elementary School, where she works.

Teacher Kristin Dinkel, who has three children enrolled in the district, told the board about outdated desks and floors that have begun to slope at the single-story school.

"Our kids deserve better," she said. "I want to see things happening."

"Let's look at the things we know aren't going away, and let's start to put some things in for the aesthetics and the amenities for the kids," Superintendent Ken Bissell said concerning district facilities. "Let's start with that, and in the background, we need to look at the bigger picture of longer-­term (projects)."

District officials said Greensburg Salem is moving forward with planned projects at Offutt Field, the high school and middle school while new air conditioning units and chillers needed at the high school and Nicely and Metzgar elementary schools could be a year away.

Bissell said the district is seeking bids for updating perimeter fencing at Offutt and creating an improved outdoor recreational space at the middle school.

The city of Greensburg has put the district on notice to address a crumbling low brick wall that supports the fence at Offutt.

At the middle school, Bissell said, "We're looking to put in a new basketball court in the grass space in the fenced-in area and provide better outdoor recreation."

Basketball hoops currently are placed on a section of the middle school's paved parking lot along Main Street in Greensburg.

Also in the pipeline, Bissell said, are plans to create an outdoor classroom at the high school, in a space where a greenhouse was located.

"We're looking at a pavilion, outdoor furniture and lighting and then, eventually, looking at redoing the pond there," he said.

While district maintenance staff is expected to make repairs to some buildings at Offutt and to the high school marquee, Bissell said quotes are being sought for new carpeting and flooring on the middle school's second floor and the district will need to renovate the school's administrative wing below.

That area of the school received water damage in April when a cooling coil on a second-floor water fountain leaked.

The district is working with its architectural and engineering adviser, Civil & Environmental Consultants, to draft specifications for the required new air conditioning and chiller equipment, but it could be two months before documents are ready for bidding, school board President Jeff Metrosky said.

"Realistically, those chillers and units will be here next summer," he said. "It won't be overnight."

"That's a lot of work in one year," Bissell said of the immediate facilities projects that are planned. "Then we're talking about, 'Where do we go from here?' "

He said a committee of school board members — Metrosky, Robin Savage, Lynn Jobe and Emily Miller — is working with Civil & Environmental Consultants to come up with a long-term facilities plan.

The consultant has proposed an estimated cost of $91.2 million for a potential wish list of building projects over 10 years.

Dinkel asked whether money would be better spent investing in new school buildings instead of fixing existing ones.

The district is poised on Wednesday to finalize a budget that would hold taxes steady for the fourth year in a row, but Dinkel said she would be willing to pay higher taxes for improved facilities.

She argued that new families may look to other districts with more up-to-date buildings when deciding where to live.

At Greensburg Salem, she said, "My kids have had a phenomenal education, and they have had great coaches. We are blessed in that manner, but people moving in don't know that yet."

Metrosky said raising taxes wouldn't be enough to pay for new building construction. He said the district has been paying $3 million per year on debt service but will be debt-free in two years and able to invest more money in facilities.

"Do we use that for another bond to build?" he said."That's something that needs looked at and planned."

He said the district must be fiscally responsible in whatever building projects it pursues.

Bissell agreed.

"We can't put our community in massive debt down the road," he said. "We have to do it responsibly, but we think that it can be done."

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter .