Carmel’s “Old Library” has a new owner who plans to open its doors to fresh and unique opportunities for students. In a special session on July 9, the Carmel Clay school board unanimously approved a resolution to purchase the 3.5-acre property from the Clay Township Board of Hamilton County. The building, currently referred to as the Community Life & Learning Center, is located at 515 East Main Street, directly south of the high school, and will add approximately 30,000 square feet to the district’s existing three million square feet of bricks and mortar.
According to Dr. Jeff Swensson, superintendent of Carmel Clay Schools, the district is on a mission to be globally competitive and envisions linking students with an increase in college experience while still in high school. “The neat thing about this facility is it is going to allow us to take the concept we are advancing of being a high performing school district and offer university level courses where students can get college credit and develop what I call habits of the mind of college.”
“The professional educators of Carmel Clay Schools are always thinking about how to help our students compete on a global platform,” said Layla Spanenberg, President, Carmel Clay School Board. “Realizing that CCS was already exceeding state standards and setting the benchmark for excellence in Indiana, Dr. Swensson developed this concept of a High Performing School District (HPSD) designation.”
This vision is designed to be a national best practice model, which exemplifies the best qualities of the school district. The concept for excelled academic curriculums is on the drawing board and district leadership will be brainstorming with the community, business leaders as well as administrators and teachers at the high school to develop programming and resources that will engage kids in higher learning. “The opportunities are endless,” said Swensson. “For instance, we could partner with universities and college professors could teach advanced science or math courses, we could offer additional languages, and business people could mentor students.” In the meantime, the building currently houses the Legacy Project and Ivy Tech remains a tenant for another year.
“IUPUI moved out a year and a half ago, stopped paying rent and left the township with a shortfall,” said Doug Callahan, Clay Township Trustee. “We cut the budget but still had to come up with money to pay the expenses.” According to Callahan, the township board was focused on preserving the building for higher learning, but a lack of available parking presented a problem to the colleges they approached about purchasing the property.
“We determined that Carmel Clay Schools would be a good fit and talked to them about buying it,” said Callahan, “The building is well-maintained, in good condition and we recently replaced the roof.” Due to the proximity to the high school, the lack of parking was not a deterrent to the CCS leadership and the chance to provide accelerated educational programs was attractive especially the prospect that students could save parents’ money on their college education by taking college level courses while still living at home thus saving on rent and board.
“After some discussion with CCS executives and the school board, the district agreed to purchase the former library property through an intergovernmental transfer and a payment $250,000, which reimbursed the township for the cost of the new roof,” said Callahan.
The township originally bought the property for approximately $1.5 million from the Carmel Clay Public Library using taxpayer money in the late 1990’s when the library moved into its new facility. “We instituted a transfer so the community would not have to pay for the purchase of the building twice,” said Callahan. An intergovernmental transfer legally allows government entities to move property among agencies without instituting a sale.
“The higher learning opportunity will have a very positive impact on our students and our Carmel Community. Not only will this help our students succeed on a global scale and realize their potential, this opportunity makes the successful CCS system even more attractive as a destination school district,” said Spanenberg.
While the cost to operate the building is not yet clear, Swensson maintains the resources are already in place to care for the structure through the facilities department and contends that the additional operating costs will not affect the bottom line since the space accounts for only 1-percent of total square footage of the district’s schools and offices.
While there is much to do concerning the planning and implementation of advanced programming, he says the ultimate goal is to maximize the type of things the future will hold for greyhound learners. “We get a big F, as in the grade, if we don’t take steps to move our school system forward,” said Swensson. “We’ll take an F, as in future to implement this global approach to learning.” The school system assumes ownership of the old library on September 1st.
Carmel Clay School Executives and Board welcome suggestions and comments from the community and offer various ways to communicate:
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CCS Educational Service Center
5201 East Main Street
Carmel, In 46033
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Attend a school board meeting (click here for schedule). Regular meetings are held on the fourth Monday night of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Educational Services Center except for May and December.