NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Public should support FWCS capital improvements proposal to fix old buildings

A public hearing held Monday detailed a proposal for $130 million in capital improvements, called REPAIR 2020, to upgrade dozens of Fort Wayne Community Schools properties. FWCS officials outlined the goals and the specific needs for fixing problems in the district’s aging buildings.

News-Sentinel.com believes the need for repairs, renovations and upgrades in FWCS’ 33 school buildings is real and immediate.

FWCS leaders had previously held four informational meetings to outline their plans. There were no comments from the public attending Monday’s hearing.

A second public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9 at which FWCS board members will vote on whether to put the measure before voters in a referendum to be placed on the ballot for the May 5 primary election.

If that happens, we stand with FWCS in asking voters to approve the measure, which would allow spending to replace infrastructure that has reached the end of its useful life, improve environmental conditions, improve security and safety for students and staff, increase the overall efficiency of buildings to decrease energy use and maintain the district’s roof replacement schedule.

REPAIR 2020 is part of a series of upgrades funded by bonds that were approved by voters in 2012 and 2016. FWCS officials say the money from those bonds was essential to much-needed fixes at many old buildings.

We agree with Superintendent Wendy Robinson, who told WANE-TV after Monday’s meeting, “I think the best advertisement for this third referendum is for people to go visit and see what we have done with the other two.”

For example, renovations at the nearly five-decades-old Northrop High School have included a new, secure entrance, while behind the walls aging pipes have been replaced.

The effects of spending on the 2020 improvements, FWCS officials insist, would be minimal. The district plans to keep the tax rate the same it has been since 2012 — 30.28 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Among some of the specific needs that would be included in the proposed plans would be major renovations at Blackhawk and Miami middle schools and Wayne High School, additions and expansions at Levan Scott Academy and Franke Park Elementary, corridor and lighting improvements at the Bill C. Anthis Center and Towles Intermediate, entrance vestibule and office security modifications at nine elementary and middle schools, ADA accessibility improvements at 14 schools and other buildings, window replacements at three elementary schools, roof replacements at 21 schools and other buildings, and temperature control upgrades at South Side High School

Maintaining the buildings in FWCS is an important part of the district’s goals. A REPAIR overview on fortwayneschools.org, says “Academics are supported by suitable buildings; FWCS buildings are strong anchors in neighborhoods and serve families throughout the community; and being fiscally responsible requires these assets be maintained. Our children deserve well-maintained facilities that meet today’s educational needs.”

We agree, and it will take our support as parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends to make sure our schools have the funds to maintain these facilities. But it is also important to hold our schools accountable to make those improvements that are truly necessary, and that’s why it’s imperative for the public to be involved in these hearings and other opportunities to find out what is needed, what plans are being proposed and where the money is coming from to fund them.