When Huntington North High Schools' head custodian Jim Frye greets visitors for a tour, he offers a packet that includes a map with red X's highlighting “known leaks that have penetrated the suspended ceiling.”

But that's not the first thing that grabs their attention, said Frye, who has worked at the high school 20 years and in the district 33.

The first thing that amazes visitors is the density of the walls, “two-and-a-half inches thick at the most,” says Frye, who calls the wall “a security factor.”

Any high-powered rifle could pierce the particle board walls that 50 years ago were filled with sand tubes to muffle sound.

The next thing they find astounding are the tarps affixed to classroom ceilings and buckets underneath catching leaky water.

“They're able to look up and see the drainage. They're amazed there's that much water and we don't know where it's coming from. It could be from anywhere,” Frye said.

All the problems found throughout the 7.5-acre academic wing built in 1969 could be history if Huntington County voters approve a $68 million referendum on the Nov. 5 general election ballot for a new building.

The district has $20 million socked away for construction of a new high school, bringing the proposed construction project to a total $88 million. Taxpayers could see their bills to fund the school district increase by at least $131 annually.

Rather than patch up the old building at an estimated cost of $98 million, which had been proposed, the administration and school board propose a new, two-story, handicapped-accessible building on the other side of the existing gymnasium and fieldhouse. Plans include a new performing arts wing and industrial technology and art addition to be built on to the existing auditorium. The old academic wing would be demolished.

Building new was first proposed by Hagerman Construction, said Chad Daugherty, Huntington County Community Schools superintendent. No renderings will be done “until the referendum is a done deal,” he added.

A separate $8 million referendum is also on the ballot. That measure aims to make Huntington teacher salaries competitive with those of the surrounding area, making it easier to hire and retain teachers, Daugherty said.
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