Roanoke council gets update on new Roanoke elementary school

The Roanoke Town Council received an update from Randy Harris, superintendent of the Huntington County Community School Corporation, on plans to build a new elementary school in town during the board’s meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

The new school will be built on property adjacent to the existing Roanoke Elementary School, said Harris. Barton-Coe-Vilamaa, in Fort Wayne, has been hired to serve as the project’s architect. The architecture firm and school corporation are currently discussing what the new school will look like. On Feb. 2, Harris noted that he toured three existing elementary schools to generate ideas for the project.

In March, prior to HCCSC’s spring break, Harris said that he would be meeting with teachers and community members to hear their thoughts on what features they would like to see at the new school.

While no decision has been made yet regarding the school’s square footage, Harris says that HCCSC does have a general idea of what size it would like the building to be.

“We hope that the building is large enough to hold what I would call a ‘three-section elementary school,’” he said. “‘Three-section’ means that we’re looking generally at having three classrooms of kindergarten, three of first grade, three of second grade, etc.”

From March through June, Barton-Coe-Vilamaa will be generating preliminary designs for the building, with HCCSC giving notes. The school corporation hopes to solicit bids for the project in mid-June and award it in July. Construction would begin after that, said Harris.

“We’re looking to start moving dirt somewhere around the middle to end of August,” he remarked.

As for the project’s completion date, Harris targeted next December as the earliest possible timeframe.

“Optimistically, is we might be ready to move into the new building at Christmas break of 2019. So, just short of two years from today’s date,” he said. “That could get pushed out as far as spring break or it may be even during the summer of 2020. But we’re looking at a pretty aggressive timeline.”

The current Roanoke Elementary School will eventually be demolished, said Harris. The building will be razed in the interests of maximizing accessibility to the new school.

Harris noted that HCCSC was open to ideas on how to pay tribute to the existing school. He mentioned that one elementary school he had toured had incorporated materials from the building it was replacing as a way of honoring it. Council President Dave Tucker suggested that bricks and sections of the gym floor at the current building could be saved and made available to the public as mementos.

Tucker and his fellow council members expressed gratitude to Harris and the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board for their decision to keep an elementary school in Roanoke.

In other business:

• Ryan Carroll, of the Roanoke Volunteer Fire Department (RVFD), shared with council that the department had paid a contractor to assess the fire station. The assessment cost $4,000 and was paid for using money the department generated at fund-raisers. The contractor, said Carroll, concluded that the cost of renovating the station would be over $1 million. Carroll stated that the hefty price tag had given the department pause when it came to pursuing renovation.

• Chad Taylor, RVFD chief, stated that AT&T technicians had recently disturbed the department’s repeater while working on top of a water tower in town. While the repeater has been fixed, Taylor noted that he was going to look into having AT&T foot the bill for the repairs.

• Council voted to temporarily give Phil Hibbert, the town’s supervisor of operations, the responsibilities of utility superintendent. Tucker stated that the current superintendent, Paul Swain, was very ill and not able to perform his duties.

• Hibbert mentioned that bids would be opened at council’s next meeting, Feb. 20, for street improvement projects in town.