When Batesville Middle School (right) and its old gym are joined by an addition, a new entrance for students who walk to school will be constructed. The old gym will no longer have doors facing Mulberry Street.

The Batesville Community School Corp. board approved the lowest of three bids Nov. 18 to construct an L-shaped 5,800-square-foot addition connecting Batesville Middle School’s southeast side with the old gym. When work is finished, students will not have to travel outdoors to access the old gym like they do now.

A new entrance on Mulberry Street will lead to a hallway that has the general music room on the addition’s east side. On the corridor’s other side will be a music office and instrument storage in the middle with a band room behind them on the west side. The choir room will move to the band room’s current location.

The bids: Poole Group, Dillsboro, $1.85 million; Bruns-Gutzwiller, Batesville, $2.23 million; and Seyferth Building Co., Cleves, Ohio, $2.54 million.

Michael Schipp, Fanning Howey, Indianapolis, project manager, noted, “This is one of the first times here recently where Bruns-Gutzwiller will not be the low contractor.” Company President Tom Bruns “was complimentary to the Poole Group. I’ve known Tony Gutzwiller and Tom Bruns since 1988,” when Schipp worked on his first Batesville project. “Sure, I wish I could do every project with Bruns-Gutzwiller ... but you don’t win them all. The savings ($384,000 between the two lowest bids) is too significant not to recognize” and that money can be spent on other BMS or Batesville High School upgrades.

A project between $1 million to $2 million is right in the Poole Group’s “sweet spot, the size of project they like to go after.” The company has done projects in Milan and been a subcontractor for Bruns-Gutzwiller.

Schipp reminded, “They have to build to our standards. I feel very comfortable in recommending them moving forward.”

The board approved the low bid unanimously.

Board President Jeremy Raver asked about the next couple of steps.

Superintendent Paul Ketcham said director of operations Tim Hunter will meet with Schipp and BMS principal David Strouse to discuss construction logistics, such as parking. BCSC director of transportation and safety Ed Krause and School Resource Officer Mike Benjamin will be consulted, too. “On a good day, it can get pretty congested.” Leaders must understand the best ways to operate when construction gets going.

Then the project manager will meet with BHS principal Andy Allen “to start to address the needs of the high school.”

According to Hunter, “The roof work that was awarded previously” will be starting over the rest of the school year with a large section being done next summer.

Trustee Larry Merkel asked about the anticipated start date. Once all state releases and local permits are obtained, BMS addition work could begin as soon as four to five weeks or perhaps eight weeks from now, Schipp answered. “We want to see activity certainly before the end of the year.”

Concrete and masonry work could start in February. “The goal is to be done next fall. The good news is we’re not impacting any of the existing spaces. It’s new construction” so students’ learning should not be disrupted.

The school district has borrowed $5.17 million to complete proposed projects at both schools.

Switching topics, the superintendent explained he wants the BCSC Wellness Council to be “less of a think tank and more of a do tank.”

He pointed out, “The future of Batesville depends on our ability to work across organizational boundaries. No single organization can build a prosperous future alone. Imagine if Batesville developed a national reputation as a community that managed stress with wellness opportunities by doing more together. What would that look like? What could we do together? Where would we start?”

Council members have divided into nutrition, exercise and mental health groups that are working independently. They will report back to the entire council at the end of the year. Ideas that came out of the Oct. 28 meeting: a proposed BHS Walking Club, brain breaks at Batesville Primary School for physical activities in the classroom, and teaching students breathing techniques to lessen anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Carpenter spoke about getting kids out of their heads and into their bodies. Ketcham noted, “We’re so locked into technology, sometimes people disengage.”

The goal is to have a new wellness approach for the 2020-21 school year. “How do we find that healthy balance?”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-717-3113.