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ST. JOHN -- Lake Central administrators said Monday they would like to keep the cost of a proposed 1,200-student intermediate school at $31 million.

That's the message delivered to School Board members as they got their first look at possible architectural designs for the two-story, 200,000-square-foot masonry building.

"We obviously are trying not to burden the taxpayers," Superintendent Janet Emerick said of the building that likely would open by 2007 to serve fifth- through eighth-graders.

The building would have its main entrance along 93rd Avenue and feature 40 classrooms, according to architects.

"What we were trying to do was use standard construction materials, nothing that would blow the budget," said Tom Kuhn, of the Schererville architectural firm of Carras, Szany, Kuhn and Associates. "It's a big building so we tried to break down the scale and make it more inviting for the kids.

"Using red brick and colored block makes it friendlier. The entrance is different than the rest of the building, which adds character and creates an identity."

Buses would drop off students at the main entrance on the north side of the building, while a secondary entrance and area for parents to drop off children would be on the south side.

Initial plans also include a parking lot with more than 300 spaces and an adjacent, gated fifth-grade playground that could accommodate swings, basketball and soccer.

Along the west side of the building there would be a loading dock and an entrance for industrial arts classes and deliveries.

Classrooms for the Westlake Special Education Cooperative would be located in one area near the nurse's office and main office area.

The building design is similar to Grimmer Middle School in Schererville. Energy efficient roof-top cooling units would replace cooling towers and result in substantial savings in operating costs, said Ed Vargo, director of construction.

"That is a handsome, beautiful building," School Board President Margaret Clark said. "It's warm and inviting kind of place and you kept that in mind for the kids."

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