The Vigo County School Board on Monday voted unanimously to name Fanning Howey as the architectural/engineering firm to develop an eight-year facilities plan for the district.

Superintendent Rob Haworth recommended the firm, after a selection process that lasted several months.

Earlier this year, a bond steering committee evaluated 12 firms that responded to a request for qualifications. The committee met with four — which were asked a series of questions — and ultimately forwarded three to the school board, which then conducted separate interviews with those three.

The final three were Fanning Howey, Schmidt/Lake and Unesco.

During a presentation Monday, Haworth said, “We will work very hard to bring a building project referendum to the ballot in May 2021,” which is otherwise a non-election year.

Now that a firm is hired, “The first thing the architect needs to do is get back into our buildings, rate them, give us the analysis and also help us look at trend data,” Haworth said.

The district has lost nearly 1,300 students over the past 10 years. “How close is that number to equaling the entire student population at North or the entire student population at South?” Haworth asked. Analyzing the buildings will be the first priority, and at a later time, the firm will conduct community meetings to get public feedback.

The firm will look at all facilities, not just the high schools.

In 2016, Fanning Howey did a study of the district’s high school facilities and presented a report that looked at various options, costs and possible tax impact. That study looked at renovation/addition, significant reconstruction and replacement options.

The school district will begin a series of community meetings next week, but those will focus on the district’s budget challenges and a proposed $7 million operations levy referendum Haworth outlined Monday.

Bill Payne, Fanning Howey chief executive officer, said that because the firm has previously done a study on the high schools, “We don’t have to start from scratch. There was a lot of valuable information generated.”

High schools will be revisited to evaluate current conditions, he said.

Payne said he will meet with the superintendent soon to develop a planning calendar.

As reports or studies are generated, they will be posted on the district website, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

Sue Loughlin has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star for more than 30 years. She covers general news with a focus on education.