It was a vote to approve the spending of $5 million dollars. But members of the Blackford School Board were optimistic it would be money well spent.

    The vote last week gave Hagerman Construction Group of Fort Wayne the green light to proceed with the construction of a new gymnasium at Blackford High School. The new gym will be built on the south side of the high school and will be connected to school’s current gym via an eight foot corridor that will include an area for concessions and a separate entrance to the new gymnasium.

    The project is part of a consolidation plan that the school board approved in 2017 after being faced with declining student enrollment and loss of funds.

    The school system currently operates six facilities, five schools and the administration building. But the consolidation will result in the school system operating on a four-building system by the 2019-20 school year.

    The plan calls for the closure of the administration building and Southside Elementary. Montpelier Elementary would remain a K-6 grade school. Blackford High School would become a consolidated 7-12 Jr/Sr High. By the start of the 2019-20 school year, Blackford Junior High School would consolidate as a K-6 Building, and Northside Elementary will be converted over to the administration building.   

    The new gymnasium will is one of the first steps to integrate the junior high into the high school.

    Hagerman representative Brad Smith told the board last week that construction on the new gym is expected to begin in late October, continuing through to late February to the first of March. Occupancy of the gymnasium is expected by August of 2019. The selling of bonds that will fund the project was to be done on Aug. 28.

    Supt. Chad Yencer said the project was a culmination of several months of work between Hagerman and the school corporation.

    “It’s a really good day for Blackford Schools,” said Board President Phil Jones. “This is super exciting. It’s been a long time coming.”

    The project will allow for the JROTC program to begin operating out of the school’s current auxiliary gym. The area that the JROTC is currently operating out of will allow for an expansion of various electives, such as industrial technology, music, art and theater.

    “We will be able to do more with technology classes for the junior high,” Yencer noted.

    When the project is done, there will be a total of eight basketball goals between the two gyms. Varsity and junior high events will be able to done at the same time. Pull out bleachers will allow for additional 572 seats.

    The new project will include a weight room, public restrooms and eight different locker rooms with a total of about 900 lockers.

     “It provides tons of opportunities for our PE classes,” Yencer said. “This is going to be phenomenal.”