INDIANAPOLIS — Voters in Franklin Township will have a chance to vote if the school district will get some funding for a construction project this May.
During the primary election on May 3, voters in the area will see a public question on their ballot. This question concerns funding for a construction project that the Franklin Township Community School Corporation (FTCSC) wants to undertake.
Using the funds, the school district hopes to upgrade the elementary schools and renovate around 75 percent of the high school. The district says Franklin Central High School is nearly 50 years old and has several major challenges including:
- Core mechanical, electrical, plumbing and roofing systems that are near or at the end of their useful life
- Not enough classrooms or co-curricular spaces to serve the 4,500 students who will be in the building in the next few years
- Classrooms built for an education system in the 1970’s, with many spaces not meeting today’s standards of contemporary learning approaches.
“The spaces in which students learn change over the years. Anything that was built in the 1970s is preparing a student for postsecondary outcomes of the 1970s,” said FTCSC chief academic officer Chase Huotari in a fact sheet for the referendum.
Fred McWhorter II, superintendent of FTCSC, said the referendum comes after two years of dealing with major issues. While one issue is the aging facilities, they are also facing growing enrollment.
FTCSC enrollment has grown by 2,462 students since 2011. In the 2021-2022 school year, they welcomed 500 new students. McWhorter says they were the only school in Marion County that saw enrollment growth during COVID.
McWhorter says they anticipate the corporation to grow by another 2,000 students in the next 10 years. To accommodate this growth, they have been reconfiguring lower-grade level schools and completed an addition for the Junior High. They are also planning on building a new elementary school in the near future.
All of those projects are being completed under the tax cap, but there is still the high school to deal with. McWhorter says the core of the building is 50 years old, and has had additions added to it over the years.
“With that comes not maintenance but renovation we do a good job of maintenance, maintaining keeping things running and all that, but there’s a point in time where things get to the end of their useful life,” said McWhorter. “So the roof needs to be replaced. The plumbing needs to be replaced and the only way to get to that plumbing is if you go through the walls and through the ceiling. The HVAC system, heating air conditioning, air systems, all that in the center core area needs to be addressed.”
Not only would the funding address fixing old problems, it would also help address future growth. McWhorter says there will be a two-story addition built onto the south part of the building to handle that additional growth.
FTCSC has been working with the community for input sessions to hear what they had to say. A community opinion survey conducted by Baker Tilly said 68% of residents believe the school district should explore a bond referendum to manage enrollment growth.
FTCSC said if passed, the referendum rate would still be the lowest in Marion County. They say residents living within the Franklin Township school boundaries pay the lowest residential property taxes in Marion County.
FTCSC also says they are the only Marion County District that has yet to receive referendum funds.
McWhorter also said he wants residents to know that the nature of the referendum would lessen the individual taxpayer burden as the community continues to grow.
"As the community grows and more houses are built and things you can spread that amongst more people and therefore that rate drops and so you don't need this higher rate to maintain that same dollar amount to pay to make that annual payment," said McWhorter. "So it'll only be $0.21 that first year and then over time it'll decrease over the life of the bonds."
He also emphasized that if an area has a high-performing school district, it positively impacts property values in the area. People interested in learning more about the corporation's plans and the impact of the referendum can visit the school's website.