Greensburg Salem set to reject outdoor classroom bids; basketball court taking shape

Sep. 10—Greensburg Salem is rethinking its approach to developing an outdoor classroom at the high school as construction proceeds on a new basketball court in a grassy area behind the middle school.

Superintendent Ken Bissell said he would like to get community input while the district considers other potential facility projects, including roof updates.

Bissell told the school board last week that C.H.&D. Enterprises is expected to wrap up work on the basketball court in less than two weeks. The upgrade is a $135,000 project covered in part by a donation from district bus contractor DMJ Transportation. Then, he said, the same contractor will head across town to Offutt Field to replace a section of exterior fencing and remove a crumbling low brick wall at a cost of $102,000.

The work at the football stadium "is about a two-week project, start to finish," Bissell said. "It should be completed for the Homecoming game" — Sept. 29, against Mt. Pleasant Area.

That work comes after the district was put on notice by Greensburg code officials to address the wall. Bissell said the plan is to rope off the affected section of the field while work is underway.

The board, at its voting meeting Wednesday, is expected to reject all three bids received for the outdoor classroom, which Greensburg Salem officials said came in well above costs that had been projected by the district's facilities consultant, Civil & Environmental Consultants.

According to Bissell, the concept for the outdoor classroom includes rejuvenating an existing pond, with a new pump and surrounding landscaping, and constructing a pavilion.

He said the district has received about $140,000 in grants for the project and is continuing to seek additional funding. But the lowest bid totaled $233,690.

Costs cited for portions of the project also were beyond what officials expected, including a $49,000 bid for electrical work and $60,000 to improve the pond.

"They were not numbers that we're at all comfortable with," Bissell said. "We're not putting in an in-ground swimming pool here. We're redoing a pond."

Bissell said the district will seek another round of bids for the wood pavilion, calling for less-elaborate materials in its construction.

Business manager Allison Willis expressed hope that less expensive quotes can be obtained for the pond and electrical work, provided each falls below the $25,900 threshold that would require soliciting sealed bids.

She noted the district has not sought bids for major construction projects in a while, and it might take time to attract the attention of a larger pool of contractors.

"Going back out to bid could produce better results for the district," she said. "It's a work in progress. We're getting on the radar."

Citing a preferred funding option, Bissell said time is of the essence in awarding contracts for replacing failed HVAC chiller units at the high school and Nicely and Metzgar elementary schools.

Civil & Environmental Consultants has prepared project documents, and the district expects to open bids Oct. 16. Bissell suggested holding a special school board meeting to award a contract Oct. 24, a date that already has been set for a board committee session.

Allowing for a year to wrap up the project, Greensburg Salem should be able to get under the wire to apply its remaining pandemic recovery funding toward the cost before it reaches the January 2025 deadline for expending the money under terms of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program, Bissell said.

Until the chillers are replaced, he said, work can't be completed to connect updated HVAC control systems for the affected buildings that were part of a previous capital project. ESSER funding that would have been used for the control systems would be shifted to the chillers.

Bissell said the district also needs a backup plan for using the ESSER funds.

"If the lead times on the chillers go beyond January 2025, we need to start looking at other things quickly," he said.

Other projects could include replacing carpeting at the high school or Hutchinson Elementary, he said.

"The carpeting at Hutchinson is 30 years old," he said.

Bissell urged the board to consider additional pending building needs as part of a longer-term plan for updating and maintaining school facilities. He recommended reaching out to gauge community opinion on potential projects.

"We need to know where we're going in the big picture," Bissell told the board. "Let's find out what does the community want, what are the thoughts from the community, to allow you to make the best decisions."

Board member Robin Savage suggested soliciting input on facility improvements through an online survey.

Fellow member Brian Conway said the district should have a means of tracking the demographics of survey respondents, to determine if those completing the survey are district parents, taxpayers or local business owners.

Civil & Environmental Consultants has projected costs of $400,000 for replacing the roof of the district maintenance facility at Offutt Field and $500,000 for roof work and restaining at the fitness center, Bissell said.

School board President Jeff Metrosky listed other potential projects: installing air conditioning at Hutchinson and updating the high school locker rooms.

"We need a bigger shared vision of where we're going," said Bissell.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at or via Twitter .