FWCS gives tour of referendum-funded construction

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The May Primary may still be more than a month away, but Fort Wayne Community Schools is already asking for voter’s support for a $130 million referendum.

FWCS 2016 Referendum

Things like air conditioning and proper lighting may seem like guarantees for any school, but that’s not the case at more than a dozen buildings in the district. NewsChannel 15 got to tour three schools Friday. Each one represents a different phase of referendum-funded construction.

Our first stop was Northrop High School, the largest project on the proposed referendum.  Around $35 million would go to replacing rusty pipes, renovating outdated classrooms, and getting lights where the bulbs are actually still manufactured.

“It will have all new heating systems. It will have air conditioning added. Right now, only interior rooms have air conditioning. The exterior rooms do not,” Coordinator of Program Controls for FWCS Heather Krebs said. “These really are essential functions to our students.”

Next, we headed to Weisser Park Elementary on the city’s southeast side. Some improvements like a renovated media center and a new entrance with more security are already complete.

“With the tragic events that are happening all over the country and things like Sandy Hook, that’s really become an emphasis in schools,” Krebs said.

Some renovation is still in the works, like the lighting in several hallways.

“When you think of students, they’re typically working in what would be an office-type environment. If you were working in that environment, you wouldn’t want to go some place where the lighting was substandard, where there was no air conditioning, and where you really couldn’t be comfortable to do your best work,” Krebs said. “We’re really just providing that comfortable space for our students to do their best.”

We ended our tour at the home of the largest project from the 2012 referendum, Snider High School. A new gym, cafeteria complete with modern lighting, and renovated classrooms with whiteboards and inside locks are just some of the highlights.

“Overall, the entire building got a face lift,” Krebs said. “We hope people see that we’ve been responsible with their money. We hope that they see that we’ve delivered on what we promised. We’ve given them these renovations on time and under budget, and it really, really improves the learning environment for our students.”

District leaders said the referendum doesn’t add any extra frills, it just ensures kids have a comfortable space to learn.

“It’s not necessarily giving laptops and iPads to every kid. It’s not putting turf on football fields. It is coming in and getting the classrooms up to a modern level of standard,” Krebs said.

This referendum would bring renovations like this to 42 of the district’s 51 schools. FWCS wants to thank voters for their past support and ask for continued backing of these projects.

“If it’s not approved, it really leaves a good population of our students really kind of back in the dark ages,” Krebs said. “Not voting yes means that you’re leaving some of the schools in Fort Wayne Community back as they were in the 60’s, and kids are hard on a building. A lot of the things that you’ll see is that these buildings are really, really worn.”

The district wants to reassure voters the referendum won’t raise property taxes. Construction would start in 2017 and be finished by 2023.

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