The graphic above depicts an example of a commons area in the new Columbia City High School, which will open in 2020.

COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley County Consolidated Schools officials are putting the final touches on their plans for the district’s new high school, which is set to begin construction this year.

The $85 million project was approved by a referendum in the November 2015 election, and since then school officials have been making decisions on every aspect of the school, from outdoor practice fields to classroom layout.

The school board first approved a schematic design, the basic layout of the school, then approved the design development, a more detailed version of the plans.

Now, WCCS Superintendent Dr. Patricia O’Connor said officials are working on the fine details, such as color schemes, flooring, lighting and furniture. Technology has been another area that has taken time and many discussions, as officials consider where to place security cameras and electrical outlets.

“With all of the technology we use in the classroom now, we need to make sure we have plenty of outlets,” O’Connor said.

The school will have two unique outdoor learning areas — one is a courtyard at the interior of the school, which will provide sunlight to the classrooms, and allow for usable, safe, outdoor space within the walls of the school. O’Connor said officials are also considering an outdoor classroom, which would have a more scenic view of the wooded areas and retention pond near the school.

Also outdoors, officials are hashing out the details on press boxes at the athletic fields, fencing and signage to help direct visitors.

Inside the school, O’Connor said lockers area a big area of discussion.

“Most kids don’t use their lockers now,” O’Connor said. “They take up a lot of space, but we also feel that students need to have a place to lock their valuables.”

Officials are still determining the size and location of the 1,200 lockers needed at the school — where architects are working to make every space count.

“Every space will have multiple uses,” O’Connor said.

There are common areas and “collaboration spaces” for students, that can also be used by the public when they come to the school for events in the auditorium.

“We want to make smart decisions,” O’Connor said. “The goal is to look to the future.”

Skillman Corporation is creating bid packets for contractors, which will be sent out this spring.

“The plan is to start moving dirt in June,” O’Connor said. “Then there’s 32 months of construction.”

After that, it will be time to move in furniture and classroom supplies.

The school will be open to take its first class of students in August 2020.

“This has been a big project, but every week we have a set of goals to complete,” O’Connor said.

She said administrators have been diligent in their decision making, meeting with teachers, experts, construction workers, and even reaching out to other school districts.

The new school will be located on S.R. 9, south of Columbia City near Indian Springs Middle School.

Officials indicated that the current high school building will be demolished, and the property will likely be turned over to the Columbia City Park Department.