Big plans for smaller school

The smallest elementary school in the Seymour Community Schools district is growing.

Cortland, home to about 125 students, is next on the corporation’s list to receive a building addition and renovation work.

The $1.5 million project will add a media center to the northwest portion of the existing building. Some interior spaces also could be renovated as part of the project for better use and to prepare the site for the possibility of a bigger classroom and cafeteria addition in the future.

Currently, construction on a $2 million project to add four classrooms at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School should be wrapped up this summer. A similar project at Emerson Elementary School was completed in late 2013.

Jamie Lake, project manager with Kovert Hawkins Architects, presented drawings of the Cortland expansion at Tuesday’s school board meeting, giving trustees their first look.

The project is being paid for through a bond issue the school board approved last year. Lake said there is a possibility the school district might need to use some capital projects fund money to help pay for some of the renovations needed.

Because of the need for financial flexibility, the project will have a base bid for just the addition, with other renovation work bid as alternate projects.

“That way you can pick and choose based on your budget,” Lake said. “You have a lot more needs in this building than you have money.”

The addition will replace the media center, which has an open layout that creates functional and safety issues. The new media center will be enclosed and include a reading room with risers on one side, a study room, a large conference room for staff training and an office and workroom.

After getting feedback from Principal Diane Altemeyer, teachers and staff at the school, Lake said architects were able to come up with a design that utilizes plans from a previous building project.

“When the new office and entrance way was built, the kindergarten rooms were moved up front, and there was a planned addition for a hallway,” he said. “We’re going to take advantage of that and put the hallway out to the new media center in front toward the main road.”

Part of the project will be new restrooms, which Lake said are desperately needed in the building, and a custodial office.

“Basically, this will be attached to the end of the sidewall of the office so that we don’t interfere with the principal’s office, and it gives us a nice addition on the side of the building out front,” he said.

The addition is scheduled to be open for use in the fall of 2016.

The project is set up for future expansion of classrooms if needed, Lake added.

If money allows, modifications will be made to existing classrooms and the old library area.

“We’re looking at the six classrooms, one of which is a computer lab, to do some new finishes in those rooms, change casework and add cubbies,” he said. “It will really change the dynamics of those classrooms to make them more useful.”

Lake said he thinks an additional classroom could be built into a niche on the school’s east side facing the school’s playground, and he plans to bid that work as an alternate too.

“Adding this classroom would be a huge initial benefit right now as well as in the future,” he said. “Ideally, we would locate the computer lab to that location, allowing you to group the classrooms around it.”

School board President Art Juergens suggested one of the alternates include a new sound system for the Cortland gymnasium.

“It’s definitely needed,” he said.

Lake agreed and said they could design the sound system and bid it out.

Other renovations could include gutting and expanding restrooms near the old library, adding two small study rooms for tutoring and support space, new water fountains and new flooring in the corridors.

Lake said the project is coming along nicely, and the land survey already has been completed.

“We’re ready to prepare construction documents at this time,” he said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.