Construction of a new elementary school, districtwide classroom renovations, and safety and security are priorities for 2019 in the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools.

Superintendent Steve Barrett said the schematic design phase of the new Lincoln Elementary School recently was completed, and the district will continue to meet weekly with Triad Architects as the project moves into full design development.

"We will have an official unveiling of the design as plans become more solid," he said.

Barrett said community input about the site location and exterior design would continue to guide decision-making as the district moves into the project's next phase.

"We've tried to create a collaborative process with teachers," he said. "They have a lot of really good ideas. The architect moved different parts of the building around, based on what the teachers were advocating for."

Barrett said the building is in its third iteration of drawings.

"Up until now, we have been able to dream and ask, 'What if?' " he said. "As we move into the new year, we will be paring down the design of our new building to meet our financial budget."

Barrett said the district is committed to moving into the new school in August 2021, but he hopes that is accelerated to August 2020.

He said a hindrance could be a shortage of skilled labor needed for a project of this size.

"Our goal is to build a beautiful building, that will last 50 or more years, as quickly as possible," Barrett said. "We won't skimp on quality."

Barrett anticipates breaking ground for the new school this spring.

Judy Hengstebeck, the district's communications coordinator, said the two-story building would allow the district to maintain as much green space as possible.

"We love to talk about the new building like a proud parent," she said. "We're nearing the phase where it will be more expensive to make changes."

Renovations

Barrett said the second priority is to renovate every classroom, media center and bathroom for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

He said the plan includes updating furniture, painting, retrofitting lights to LEDs and installing new floors.

The new elementary school and these renovations will be possible thanks to voter approval of a 1.22-mill, 30-year bond issue and a 4.28-mill permanent operating levy that appeared on the 2018 May primary ballot.

Barrett said priorities for furniture include items that move easily, can be clustered for small-group interaction and are in a variety of styles.

"Our intent is to have most of the classroom renovations completed before school begins in the fall," he said.

The lighting will be installed after school hours, beginning immediately.

Furniture will be ordered beginning in February, with assembly occurring on site at schools in early summer, according to Barrett.

He said painting would occur during summer break, but there's no estimate for the floor removal and installation that will be the most laborious of all the projects.

Safety

Barrett said the third priority this year would be school safety and security.

"We'll roll out a resource for the community, a Safe School Hotline, in early 2019," he said.

Barrett said people need to be able to submit anonymous concerns.

"We want a culture that if people see something, we want them to say something," he said.

Barrett said a professional-development day set Monday, Jan. 7, would focus on social-emotional health and early identification of students in crisis.

Teachers will participate in mini-workshops about anxiety, depression, problem-solving and conflict resolution.

"We want teachers to identify concerns they have with kids," Barrett said. "One of the best avenues to keep kids safe is to make sure they're healthy mentally."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla