Duneland Schools’ goal to start construction at intermediate schools and new Yost in spring

Duneland School Corporation Superintendent Chip Pettit

Duneland School Corporation Superintendent Chip Pettit

Duneland School Corporation hopes by next spring to start on three major projects: Renovation of Liberty Intermediate and Westchester Intermediate schools and building the new Yost Elementary School.

The projects are the major components of a comprehensive $168.8 million package of capital improvements involving nearly all of the district’s buildings. The plan will be executed from 2022 through 2025.

“I think it’s an amazing thing for the community that we are able to upgrade all of our facilities in support of 21st Century programming and to be able to do that across the board,” said Chip Pettit, superintendent of Duneland schools.

The next step will be finalizing the design for all three of the projects by December. Pettit said that the bond financing for the project could be obtained in February and the construction bids could be awarded in March. Construction could then start the next month.

Renovation of Liberty Intermediate and Westchester Intermediate schools is key to the district’s plan to move seventh and eighth graders to those buildings from the Chesterton Middle School by the fall of 2023. The Liberty Intermediate project will cost $29,428,770 while the renovation of Westchester Intermediate will be $29,855,605, according to the district’s estimates.

The two intermediate schools will house fifth through eighth graders. Pettit said that there will be a separation of fifth and sixth graders from the seventh and eighth graders.

“Floor to ceiling it will look like a new building when you walk in,” Pettit said regarding both intermediate schools.

The district is also starting to work on what possible adjustments to enrollment boundaries might have to be made to accommodate the change. Under current boundaries, the enrollment would be 1,000 students at Westchester Intermediate and 700 students at Liberty.

The Duneland School Corporation is organizing the Enrollment Equity Committee with about 30 people to develop a proposal on how to balance enrollment across the district.

The committee will have parents, community members, teachers, principals and administrators. Half of the committee will be parents from the five elementary schools that feed the intermediate schools.

The boundaries for all of the elementary, middle and intermediate schools will be reviewed. It is hoped that the proposal will be ready to present to the superintendent and school board by Dec. 31. Those interested in participating are asked to contact Bridget Martinson at bmartinson@duneland. k12.in.us

During the summer the district decided to build a new building for the Yost Elementary School on the present 12 acres at 100 W. Beam St. in Porter.

The new building will be built in phases on the site while the old structure will be used until the construction is completed.

Administrators, along with the district’s consultant, had considered a 33- acre parcel across the road that once housed a brickyard through the 1920s. The site had traces of arsenic and lead in the soil.

However, Pettit said the district concluded that it would be too costly to build on the 33-acre site because it would have required a massive amount of soil to be brought to the location to raise the property level for construction.

The new Yost Elementary School is estimated to cost $ 24,724,735 million.

Pettit said that no decisions have been made yet about the future of the Chesterton Middle School after the seventh and eighth graders are moved to the two intermediate schools in 2023.

The Duneland School Corporation intends to hold onto the swimming pool and administrative offices on the east side of the building, Petit said. Programs for the alternative school, early childhood and special education would continue to operate on site.

There would still be plenty of available space that includes the gymnasium and auditorium on the western side of the building, Pettit said.

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