Design work for first phase of classrooms, labs update moves forward

Seymour High School is set to undergo renovations in 2018 to update science classrooms and labs.

Construction is scheduled to begin in June with the bulk of the work being completed over the summer to keep from disrupting student learning.

The $1.5 million project is the first phase of the corporation’s efforts to address the growing academic needs of the high school, including technology, advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum and student enrollment.

Steve Nauman, corporation business manager, said JCB was the winning bidder to finance the project with a 1.4 percent interest rate.

The total amount of the bonds is $2 million with $400,000 going to purchase equipment and complete the inside of the high school’s new Ag Science and Research Farm facility in Freeman Field and another $100,000 to build a fully accessible playground at Seymour-Redding Elementary School.

“We anticipated 2 percent or possibly 1.5, so this is fantastic,” Nauman said of the interest rate.

The corporation will have the debt paid off in 2019, putting it in a position to be able to do another project in 2020, he said.

“That’s part of why our interest rate is so low, because we are paying it back so quickly,” he said.

George Link with VPS Architecture in Evansville attended the Nov. 14 school board meeting and presented designs for the science classroom and lab renovations.

Because of the number of rooms and scope of work needed, Link said the $1.5 million budget is not enough to do everything.

The focus will be on three classrooms and two science labs, which Link described as “undersized.” An alternate bid will include renovation of the current chemistry classroom/lab.

“We can’t touch all the science labs at this point in time, but we’re getting as much as we possibly can with the budget,” Link said. “Science labs tend to be very utility intensive with gas, water, electricity.”

Superintendent Rob Hooker said the plan is to complete three or four of the six rooms this year and then come back and finish the other science labs in 2019.

Principal Greg Prange said the rooms being renovated are more than 20 years old, and the other rooms are even older.

The Indiana Department of Education recommends 1,200 square feet for labs, and Seymour’s are currently a little more than 900 square feet, Link said.

The current design of the school’s labs with fixed peninsula tables around the perimeter of each room prevents them from being utilized for both lab work and instructional/lecture space, he said.

By meeting with faculty and staff, Link said they were able to come up with a design that renovates the existing three classrooms and two labs into three much larger lab/classroom hybrids that are just more than 1,500 square feet each.

The lab tables will no longer be fixed and instead will be mobile so teachers and students can reconfigure the classrooms as needed for lecture or experiments. Gas and water fixtures will be along the perimeter of the rooms.

Tables will receive electricity from cord reels that drop from the ceiling, Link said.

Each room will be exactly the same so they can be used for chemistry, biology, physics or other science classes.

Link said design documents should be completed by the end of January and will go out for bid in February. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

“The science teachers are very excited about this,” Hooker 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.