Southwestern Schools took the first step toward building a new activities center adjacent to Southwestern Middle and High School on Tuesday.

The school corporation plans to build a new auxiliary gym that would host a variety of activities and make it easier to schedule after-school practices. The planned facility will be 110 feet by 100 feet with two cross courts, restrooms, a concession stand, office space, storage and a custodial room, Superintendent Steve Telfer said.

"We're excited about it," Telfer said. "It will be used for phys ed; it'll be used for a lot of activities."

The activities center is one of several proposed future projects for the school district. Other projects include the purchase of property which would be used for agriculture courses and the Community Calf Project, improvements to the middle and high school HVAC system, roof and elevators and renovations to Southwestern Elementary School. 

To help finance the projects, the board approved the formation of a nonprofit corporation for the proposed construction and renovation. The Southwestern Jefferson County Multi-School Building Corporation was approved unanimously with a 3-0 vote. Board members Deanna Liter and Cree Green were absent.

The board gave approval for the group to seek up to $3 million in bonds.

In Indiana, any school building project exceeding $2 million requires a school referendum to approve the spending. Laura Boldery, Southwestern treasurer, said the law allows for up to $2 million at each building, and these projects would be less than that at each location.

Donald Bair, Dan Turner and Ed Hensley were appointed to the board of Southwestern Jefferson County Multi-School Building Corporation and Ice Miller was brought on as bond counsel.

Also at the meeting, Southwestern's substance abuse counselor Christa Gibson said she hopes to implement a drug and alcohol prevention program next year that would include random drug testing of students. Testing would be done with parental consent, but would be required of students participating in school athletics or driving to school, Gibson said.

If students tested positive, they would not be allowed to take part in team activities or drive to school until a negative test was taken.

High school principal Jeffrey Bates said the school looked into a similar program a few years ago but couldn't come up with funding.

Gibson said she planned to contact local businesses and seek grants to pay for the drug screenings. 

In other business:

• The school board approved  teacher Michael Comer to teach drivers education classes this summer. Southwestern currently has 27 students signed up to take the summer course. Cost of the course is $350 per student.

• The board also approved a pay increase for substitute teachers for the 2014-2015 school year. Substitutes without a degree will earn $60 a day, up from $50, while substitutes with a degree will earn $75, up from $65.