VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – The Vigo County School Corporation said it believes it has a plan moving forward to start improving the high schools following the failed referendum.

You may recall, the $261 million dollar referendum proposed increasing property taxes to fund the renovations and site improvements of the three high schools within VCSC. This referendum was voted down in the May 2022 election.

Superintendent of VCSC, Dr. Rob Haworth, said the school corporation has a plan to use the dollars they currently have.

“Those dollars that we would have available are federal dollars as a result of the pandemic here, in the schools we call them ESSER dollars,” Dr. Haworth said.

Dr. Haworth said the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER dollars, can be used for HVAC quality. He explained VCSC has submitted a new proposal to the federal government explaining that’s how they wanted to use those dollars.

“That has been approved and so we’re going to be gathering proposals from contractors, architectural firms to assist us in trying to find some out-of-the-box thinking on how to address our HVAC systems without being disruptive to the school day,” Dr. Haworth said.

He explained the HVAC systems in the high schools have been failing for about a decade, and this has to be dealt with before they start making any other changes.

“I think two critical needs that have to be addressed before you look at cosmetic pieces or just beautification of the campus is heating and cooling. You know, are your students, are your faculty comfortable in their work environment? The other part of that is plumbing,” Dr. Haworth said.

Steve Joseph, Principal of Terre Haute North High School, said students and faculty are coming to school every day not being sure whether to bundle up or dress in shorts and flip-flops.

“It really plays havoc on our kids, not knowing how to dress and try to concentrate on what the teacher is talking about and worry about sweating or freezing in the classroom,” Joseph said.

Joseph said something either failing or not working has become a frequent occurrence at Terre Haute North.

“It’s on a daily basis that we might have a bathroom closed because something is stopped up, just not working properly, that’s a big issue and hopefully that’s going to be tagged along with the HVAC and that’s going to be taken care of,” Joseph said.

Joseph said he thinks the HVAC systems and plumbing is a great place to start, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

“We just need an update, a facelift. The buildings were built in the ’70s, the early 70s and they show their time, show their wear and there’s been a lot of kids through here,” Joseph said.

Dr. Haworth said he hopes they’ll be able to start tackling the HVAC and plumbing sometime in the spring.