General obligation bonds on tap to help fund new construction

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — With the district’s two middle schools on the verge of surpassing 1,000 students, Northwest Allen County Schools officials and the district’s school board will have to make yet another decision: to build or expand.

This year, Carroll Middle School is at 99.1% capacity and Maple Creek Middle School is at 95.6% with numbers expected to climb each year through 2033, according to a timeline created by McKibben, a firm NACS turns to for demographic expectations.

The district will address the demographic explosion expected at the middle school level and then turn toward the 500-plus student increase expected at the high school over the next 10 years, Lizette Downey, NACS spokeswoman, said Tuesday. The total school population is around 8,100.

Four proposals are in front of the board and were presented this week. The plans include:

  • an expansion of both middle schools estimated to cost between $48 and $55 million
  • build a new 1,400 student school for Grades 5 and 6 at a cost between $86.5 and $97.6 million
  • build two new smaller (700 students) schools for Grades 5 and 6 at a cost of $92.4 to $98.9 million
  • build a new middle school for 1,000 students at a cost between $66 and $74 million

Middle schools larger than 1,000 students are considered less effective for students in grades 6-8, Downey said.

Where a new middle school might be built depends on land availability and demographic shifts, Downey said. It could go toward the western area of the district where developers are buying up land and proposing or building new subdivisions; however, no one is sure what might happen in more established neighborhoods like Pine Valley that may turn over as empty nesters sell to people with school-aged children, Downey added.

Redistricting is also an option when one school has more students than others. The boundaries for the district are the north county line, east county line, Dupont and Flaugh roads to the south and Tonkel Road to the east.

The high school currently has 2,544 students and is at 92.5% capacity. In 2032, enrollment is expected to be at least 2,904 or 105.6% capacity. There is land available around the high school. However, it is not known if the available land will be enough.

“Over the course of the next five to 10 years, we do expect an additional 500 students at the high school level, so it’s the secondary part of our district that is seeing the flux or the influx of students coming,” Downey said. “We’re not saying they aren’t there at the primary level K-5, but the focus is really at that secondary level.”

“We know already that we have some limitations at the high school. It’s not at capacity yet. We have some space, but we’re also having to get more creative with the space we have. It’s helpful to have a little extra room when you’re doing extracurricular activities and you have other clubs wanting the same spaces. So those are obstacles and growing pains that we’re feeling now. We’re expecting we’re going to have to look at some expansions or some renovations at the high school in the not too distant future,” Downey said.

The board is reviewing the plans, but there’s no timeline for a decision.

“They know we’re looking at two to three years before we have a building up and running,” Downey said. “While the board is debating and considering the information for the middle school level, we’ll work to compile that for the next phase of addressing the need (at the high school).”

Any construction is expected to be financed through general obligations bonds, not a referendum, Downey said. The new construction should come at very little cost to taxpayers because bonds scheduled to be retired will clear the way for new bonding.

“We will need to consider our options for the new development,” Downey said in a text message. “We’re hopeful GO bonds will help us, however, it may require other sources as well. It’s too early to say exactly how that will look.”