Northwest Allen County Schools isn't starting from scratch when developing plans for its newest elementary building.
Rather, it's improving upon a design that has served the district for more than a decade with two additional kindergarten classrooms, a separate special needs entrance, more usable conference space and breakout areas for specialized instruction, a representative from architectural firm Barton-Coe-Vilamaa told the school board Monday.
Slated to welcome students August 2020, the school is being modeled after Cedar Canyon and Eel River elementary schools, which opened in 2006 and 2009, respectively. Feedback from Cedar Canyon and Eel River personnel are influencing the design.
The school is planned for the north side of Hathaway Road between Bethel Road and Indiana 3, or Lima Road. The school board approved a $1.4 million real estate purchase agreement for the site at its last meeting.
A construction bid could be awarded as early as November, said Brian Bohlender of Barton-Coe-Vilamaa.
Voters approved the school through a $33.98 million referendum in May. The ballot measure also includes about $3 million in safety and efficiency improvements districtwide.
Plans account for six sections of kindergarten, five sections each of grades one through three and four sections each of fourth and fifth grades with the flexibility to accommodate enrollment fluctuations as needed, Superintendent Chris Himsel said.
More kindergarten classrooms are needed because of the switch from half-day classes to full-day classes since the other schools were built, Himsel said.
This school also will be built with features now taken for granted, such as Wi-Fi and LED lighting, Himsel said.
Noting "traffic gets congested," board member Steve Bartkus asked whether the plans provide adequate drop-off space and was assured they do.
The separate special needs entrance will likely help, board President Kent Somers said, noting shared spaces can slow drop-offs.
In other news, Somers and Himsel thanked those who responded to last week's bus fire. The driver, Doug Bultemeyer, was "awesome" in evacuating the approximately 35 students, Himsel said.
The superintendent noted Bultemeyer downplayed his actions, telling Himsel, "I was just doing my job."
The fire, which happened at the first bus stop in the Lakes of Carroll Creek subdivision, prompted inspections of the district's fleet by Indiana State Police, Northwest Allen personnel and the bus manufacturer, Himsel said.
The cause remains unknown, but the incident reinforced the importance of emergency drills, which students don't always appreciate, officials said.
"This is why we do it," Somers said.