The Goshen School Board voted today to propose a referendum aiming to address overcrowding issues in the district. They board will also propose an operational referendum with a primary focus on teacher salaries. Both referendums will be on the May 8th primary ballots for residents of the school district.
The plan being pursued now includes building a new intermediate school to house fifth and sixth grades, as well as adding additional classrooms to Goshen High School and renovating parts of the existing middle school.
The plan being pursed now includes taking fifth graders out of existing middle schools and building a new intermediate school to house fifth and sixth grades, as well as adding additional classrooms to Goshen High School and renovating parts of the existing middle school.
The land for the proposed new intermediate school is about a mile from the current middle school and is already owned by Goshen Schools.
The current middle school will house seventh and eighth graders.
The expected cost of the proposal is an estimated $65 million dollars.
Superintendent Diane Woodworth said the changes are necessary after an assessment of Goshen Schools involving community and school representatives. Among the issues Woodworth noted were hallway congestion, cramped classrooms and air quality concerns in the buildings. Woodworth said schools have been forced to convert storage rooms into offices and workspace.
“We’re crowded now,” Woodworth said, “We’re looking forward to not having teachers and students in hallways, we’re looking forward to not having teachers and students meeting in rooms that don’t have proper ventilation.”
Contrary to South Bend’s enrollment rate, which has dropped in recent years, Goshen has seen an increase and administrators expect the number to continue rising. Goshen schools serviced 6,534 students in during the 2016-2017 school year. Officials expect the number to increase by at least 200 students within the next ten years.
Woodworth said creating a new school for fifth and sixth graders not only would create more room in elementary schools for pre-K programs, but would give the middle school some breathing room.
She also noted that the option of creating the intermediate school would also save money in regards to athletic programs, as opposed to another middle school that some parents at previous forums would create competition in the school system and in regards to equity. Both schools are expected to service about a thousand students each.
Goshen middle school currently houses 1,500 students, which administrators say is the fourth largest middle school in the state.
To make up for lack of space in buildings, Goshen schools has had to incorporate “doublewides”, or prefabricated modular buildings outside of the schools to serve as auxiliary classrooms. During the presentation of the revised plan, Woodworth commented that though temporary, the use of “doublewides” was a safety concern.
School Board President Felipe Merino said he, like the rest of the board, was grateful for all of the community feedback received throughout the planning process. He said it was also important to make sure that teachers were also taken care of to ensure the all around success of the plan.
“If the state forgets about them, let’s not, let’s make sure they’re taken care of,” Merino said in regards to the referendum aimed at increasing operational costs, which would target teacher salaries as a priority, “If we don’t have to spend money the money then we won’t.”