Plans Unveiled for New Pre-School in Ligonier

By Sara Barker  (Shared with permission from KPC Media).

LIGONIER — A vision for a new Ruth Stultz Nursery school is now in plain sight.

Last year, Ruth Stultz board members approached the council asking for permission to look into how much building a new school would cost.

Originally, some wanted to build onto the existing structure, but Ruth Stultz’ funding source, the Hagen Foundation, said the age of the building wouldn’t bode well with a new addition.

Now, preliminary plans were unveiled for a new preschool building, parking lot and drop-off area to the Ligonier common council last week.

Ruth Stultz board members Doris Gierhan and Heather Shearer came armed with a floor plan and satellite overview of the property and explained what they know so far about the whole thing.

“We don’t have everything all planned out for sure,” Gierhan said. “We want to make sure before we got any further that you guys were still with us.”

Shearer also works for the Commodore Corporation, which makes prefabricated, modular homes. That’s the kind of building the preschool is on track to be.

“Our plan is to completely tear down the existing building and remove the basement,” Shearer said. “We will pour a whole new foundation to all of it, and then this preschool building will be made of six sections of modular, so it will be pretty quick.”

That new building will take the current two-classroom building to a four-classroom structure, complete with first aid, a conference room and a staff lounge.

The basement is also going away, since it wasn’t functional to begin with, Ruth Stultz’s financial secretary Jane Noelle said.

The current slope of the stairs is too steep for preschoolers to enter the lower level, so in the case of dangerous weather, the space is unusable.

Noelle also said an overhaul of utilities that would come with a new-build structure would benefit the school, as well.

“We have an old building right now, so most of the electrical and furnace would be an upgrade,” Noelle said.

Another update is a driveway for dropping off and picking up, which would loop around from Proposal Drive near the front door of the school, which would face east. A new parking lot would also be built on the north end of the building, opposite Lincolnway West.

The new parking lot and the driveway would help make busy times smoother and keep kids safer, board members said, since the current drop off is at the front of the building near the road.

When board members came to the common council, they just asked for verbal approval of the plans, since they said the building was on city property. Mayor Patty Fisel said she approved, acknowledging that the preschool’s waitlist makes the improvements necessary.

Noelle confirmed that 55 students are currently enrolled across age groups at the school, and there’s a waitlist for 3-year-olds.

Last year, the school had to utilize a 10-by-10-foot storage room as a classroom to accommodate the large amount of 3-year-olds enrolled.

Once board members got verbal approval from the common council, the next step was to notify a potential funder for the project.

“Some of the funders that we’re looking at needed to have a plan,” Noelle said. “At the moment, we’re trying to be directed by the people who are funding us.”

For that reason, other fundraising efforts and building are in limbo until a funder can be secured, and although the school has received quotes for the cost of construction, they’re not going public with the dollar amount just yet.

“That’s the reason we were waiting,” Noelle said.

Last year, the Hagen Foundation paid for a new playground for the preschool to the tune of $24,000.

Right now, the general idea is to have a new school by next school year, but Noelle said that’s not set in stone.

“Our plan is not always the Lord’s plan,” she said.