LEBANON, Ind. — Boone County is one of the fastest growing counties in central Indiana, and its schools are trying to keep up and prepare.
The Lebanon Community School Corporation is using a capital referendum passed last May to make big changes.
Harney Elementary and Perry-Worth Elementary will see renovations, Central Elementary will be converted to a pre-K facility, Hatte B. Stokes Elementary will be upgraded, and a new elementary school will be built.
“Whatever the zip code is of any of our parents or students in the district, they will have the same educational experience in a new modern facility,” said LCSC Superintendent Jon Milleman.
Harney Elementary is where we find third grade teacher Matthew Farrell and his 24 students. On Wednesday, the class had an interesting assignment.
”Trying to communicate to a Mars rover from a distance and picking up materials they find that are valuable using some sensors and coding,” Farrell said.
Students still learn all the usuals like math, English, science and more, but Farrell said they’re solving problems, too.
“We take on tons of challenges, real world challenges, whether through inquiry or hands-on materials,” Farrell said.
One of the challenges they encounter is space. Farrell uses pretty much every spare inch of his classroom.
”Right now, you can see it’s really tight,” he said. “And those materials they need for those types of projects to give them that experience, it takes up a lot of space and storage.”
Lebanon and Boone County have been growing fast in the last 10 years, and more growth is expected. Milleman said they’re working to make room for the students already here, plus the additional students expected down the road.
Harney and Perry-Worth Elementary will both be renovated to have capacity for about 200 more students than there is room for now. That’s great new for Harney Principal Janet Dye.
”Just really looking at building with what we have within without adding extra on the outside,” Dye said.
She said the space inside her school will be reimagined and used in better ways to give students and staff more room.
“We’re just really excited for the community and our kids and our staff to be able to have the spaces and places to be able to do the fine work that we do,” Dye said.
Milleman said the money will also help add a designated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) lab with a teacher just for that course at all four elementary schools.
“Our students need to be prepared for the type of jobs that are going to be out there and available to them in the future,” he said.
Farrell is looking forward to the renovations and the space to best equip his students for life ahead.
“It motivates me and brings pride to me, too, to let them know the community is here to support what we’re doing,” Farrell said.
The money from the capital referendum will go toward work on the elementary schools only. Milleman said rising construction costs have limited them in that way.
”With the cost rising of construction it looks as though most of those capital referendum funds will be leveraged to the elementary school, and we’ll be bringing some other concept and ideas to the community and the school board here in the future of the middle and high schools,” Milleman said.
Considering the growth, Milleman said it made sense to point this money toward the elementary schools.
”A: it had the most urgent need and B: when you’re growing, or anticipating growing, as a school district typically that is the enrollment age level or enrollment level where we see that growth first,” he said.
The renovations to Harney Elementary and Perry-Worth Elementary will begin in June. Construction on the new elementary school will begin in September. Milleman hopes both will be done by the fall of 2025.