PENDLETON — Where principals and secretaries sit would make as much as a $258,000 difference when renovating Pendleton Heights Middle School.

Board members of the South Madison Community School Corp. on Thursday reviewed several cost-saving options for their plans to renovate the middle school building into an elementary school, intermediate school or sixth-grade center. Each plan could cost more than the $8 million limit on what they would like to spend, according to preliminary cost estimates.

Keeping the administration offices where they are now would save between $109,000 and $258,000 if school officials turned the building into an elementary school or intermediate school, according to architects. However, it would actually be cheaper to move the administrative offices if the building became a sixth-grade center.

Current plans show the school’s administrative offices moving to face the building’s main parking lot. This would let people in the office see everyone who came into the building. And those people would have to pass by the main offices before moving deeper into the school, said Martin Truesdell, of the Indianapolis-based architectural firm Stair Associates.

Another cost-saving option is switching to a less modern system of environmental control, architects said.

Current plans show a geothermal system for the renovated building. A conventional-pump heating system could save the school district about $150,000. However, the conventional-pump system would create higher monthly utility bills than the geothermal system, Truesdell said.

Administrators plan to make a renovation recommendation to the school board in early June, which is another delay to give school officials more time to consider all their options.

Of the five renovation options the school board is considering, all could cost more than $8 million, according to the highest estimates. Three options could cost below $8 million, according to the lowest estimates.

Stair Associates provided the following preliminary cost estimates:

• A sixth-grade center, costing between $7.19 million and $9.02 million.

• An intermediate school without any additions or reconstruction to a three-floor tower next to the school, costing between $7.41 million and $9.29 million.

• An intermediate school with an addition constructed to the current building, costing between $7.58 million and $9.55 million.

• An intermediate school with reconstruction to the three-floor tower, costing between $10 million and $12 million.

• An elementary school costing between $10 million and $13 million.

Renovations are necessary to alleviate crowding in two of the district’s elementary schools, Pendleton and Maple Ridge, which are at capacity, according to administrators.

Seventh- and-eighth-graders will move out of the school and into a new building, at Indiana 38 and County Road 300 West, in 2009.

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