Architects present several different versions of new middle school

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By Jessica Singleton

The new Owen County Middle School is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Ron Murall Architects presented the Owen County Board of Education with four plans in an attempt to balance the administration’s wish list and the hard realities of the budget.

Each plan highlights one of four alternate features that will be built only if the budget allows. The options are two flex classrooms, an auditorium, a rooftop courtyard and extra locker rooms.

Superintendent Mark Cleveland said getting the flex classrooms are his top priority. The flex rooms could be used for any grade level and help the school grow along with the student body.

Another optional feature is a rooftop courtyard. This will be a courtyard with classroom space on the roof above the art room. It will also provide a second exit to the second-floor media center.

“I like this idea,” Cleveland said. “It makes us unique, but it might have to go or be redesigned.”

The auditorium is also a unique feature for a middle school. He said very few middle schools have a dedicated auditorium, instead opting for stages attached to the cafeteria or gym. The idea came from the heavy use of the high school auditorium, which is used for community events as well as school functions.

“If we have to cut something, that would likely be the first to go,” Cleveland said.

The extra locker rooms that open directly to the outside are the final option. These will give extra room for team sports that use a lot of equipment, like football and baseball.

“The former coach in me really wants these locker rooms,” he said. “However, if we only have enough money for one alternative, we will get the flex classrooms.”

The total cost of the project is about $20 million and will be paid for with a bond issue.

Cleveland said they would not use all of their bonding potential for the new building. Some money must be saved to renovate the current middle school.

Cleveland said the board will not issue new taxes to fund the school.

Cleveland said the critical point for the school will be when the construction bids go out in March. Until the school board receives these bids and can nail down the cost of construction, it will not know how many of the alternate features they ultimately can afford.