Public Weighs-In on FWCS Building Project

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

November 10, 2011 Updated Nov 11, 2011 at 3:03 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The fourth and final public hearing for the $242M building improvement proposal by Fort Wayne Community School (FWCS) brought the best turnout, yet.

Close to 60 people attended the public meeting at Snider High School Thursday night. Half of the school’s cafeteria was full of parents and taxpayers. FWCS officials said that's twice as many people than attended the past three meetings, combined. Only about 30 people were counted for at those meetings.

FWCS used the public meetings to share plans for the $242M renovation project, and receive feedback. The renovations most needed are new boilers and HVAC systems, lighting and electrical systems, and brand new energy efficient windows.

Indiana’s NewsCenter spoke with some attendees to get their take on the overall project.

Theresa Distelrath graduated from FWCS and now has two sons in the district. She said she attended the meeting to get more answers about what they’re planning to do in the schools. She said the meeting provided great details and she fully supports the proposed project.

“What they want to do with our tax dollars is just make our schools a little bit better so our kids have a better opportunity to have a better education,” Distelrath said.
Some of the items they want to do are some of the basic items that we would do everyday in our own homes.

Rob Craighead has three children the district, one in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school. Craighead said he wanted to know where and how FWCS was going to spend the money and what all was included in the renovation.

“All of the things that are addressed in this package are things that need to be done, should be done, and are long overdue,” Craighead said.

Cheryl Whitehill also has three children who attend FWCS. She attended Thursday night’s meeting because she wanted to know “what as on the agenda.” She said she’s always been involved with the schools and thinks it’s important for families to take an active part in the school systems. She has no problem with what FWCS is proposing.

“We're not asking for extras above and beyond. We're asking for the basics. We are asking for what you would do if you wanted to fix your own house up,” Whitehill said.

Very few members of the community attended the past three public meetings. FWCS Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson think it’s because the word did not get out to enough people. She said they tried to set the meetings at different times on different days in different parts of the district to try and accommodate as many people as possible, but she understands that someone people simply cannot make it out.

“If only two people showed up to a meeting it’d be worth it because they showed up and could give us feedback,” Dr. Robinson said.

Dr. Robinson said another reason is because the different ways people can communicate nowadays. She said many people have been giving feedback to her and the school board through emails, phone calls, and surveys about the project. In the meantime, she said it’s still important for everyone to spread the word about the project.

Over the next couple months, the school board will meet and discuss all the feedback they received, and decide if they want to send out a petition to get 100 signatures. If the board is successful, they’ll be able to put this on the primary ballot in May. That decision could possibly be made by Dec 12.

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