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New life for old school

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School board has plans for renovating former middle school

By Molly Haines

Life could soon come back to the recently-abandoned facility that housed Maurice Bowling Middle School students for nearly 26 years following the Owen County Board of Education’s approval of a $1.6 million building and grounds plan.
The document came before the board after the district’s local planning committee decided to keep the existing district facility plan, which outlines reconstruction of the old middle school in order to move the Owen County Elementary students there.
Owen County Schools Superintendent David Raleigh said a local planning committee is formed every four years and is responsible for developing a long-range facilities plan.
Raleigh said the committee looks at growth of the community, what enrollment will be, physical characteristics of facilities and making sure they are safe.
Members of the committee include administrators, teacher representatives from each school, one board member and other district staff.
Three community leaders and four parents are also on the committee.
A building official is also part of the committee.
The existing district facility plan included a plan to revamp the old Maurice Bowling Middle School to become the elementary school, the committee decided to stick with that plan.
Representatives from Ross-Tarrant Architects attended the May 17 meeting to present a renovation plan to the board.
Raleigh said the board contracted with Ross-Tarrant, also the architects for the new Maurice Bowling Middle School, to help the planning committee, but that Ross-Tarrant may not be the architects for reconstruction on the old middle school.
Raleigh said a number of things would need to be revamped if the old facility becomes the new elementary school.
“The main thing is that over the years the building has deteriorated in some respects,” Raleigh said. “There are things that are going to have to be done either way.”
Raleigh said repairs could possibly include updates to the fire alarm system, lighting, sprinkler system and vestibule.
The board had an option to go with a $1.2 million renovation plan or a $1.6 million plan.
Raleigh said the $1.6 million plan was voted on for extra things that teachers and members of the elementary school staff may want, such as removing lockers and putting in cubbies.
The move from the elementary school to the old middle school would not likely take place until the 2012-13 school year.
“If we were to move this coming August, we would have to take the money out of the general fund,” Raleigh said. “That’s really not a good use of taxpayer money and we don’t want to put kids in a situation where eventually there would be construction workers on the site and kids being exposed to dust, fumes and people coming and going all the time.”
Raleigh said by going through a reconstruction process, construction funds can be used to renovate the facility.
The next Owen County School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 20.