The Liberty County Board of Education Tuesday had a long discussion about the future of the Coastal Academy, and while members could not agree on a path, they agreed not to renovate.
Altman+Barrett architect Walter Altman prompted the discussion with request for the board’s approval of a master plan with three site options: renovating the existing school, demolishing the school or selling the school as-is.
Altman’s written report details several structural, electrical and mechanical issues in the Gause Street school, which was built in 1920 and extended in the 1940s. It used to be known as Hineshaw Elementary.
“Fourteen years ago, … I was taken aback at that time that we had put some money into it, but from what I know of this building, I don’t think it’s worth putting one more cent in,” board member Marcia Anderson said. “It has more problems than we can ever afford to address.”
“It’s in pretty bad shape,” Altman said.
Because more than 50 percent of the facility needs work, the entire building would have to be brought to modern standards, which means it would be more expensive to renovate than to build new, Altman said.
He did not have a firm estimate for reconstruction, but he said renovations would likely be upwards of $3 million at a price of $150 per square-foot, compared to about $110 per square-foot to build.
And land constraints on site would hinder new construction, Altman added.
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Conley cautioned the board to consider that they spoke last month about a general elementary schools master plan that highlighted needs at Jordye Bacon and Button Gwinnett and alluded to a capital projects agenda discussion later on Tuesday’s agenda.
She also reminded them to think long-term — that any changes they make to the academy or other elementary schools would be at least one to two years down the road.
The board members expressed confusion at Conley’s statement, and a lengthy discussion ensued about possible solutions, such as acquiring other land, closing the academy and placing the students in their school by zone or busing them to another academy out of county.
The academy serves emotionally and behaviorally challenged students in Liberty, Bryan and Long counties, according to LCSS Division for Exceptional Learning Executive Director Becky Kelly. It is part of the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, and the First District Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) oversees the school’s administration.
The school has about eight classes each staffed by a teacher and a paraprofessional. It averages 50-55 Liberty students per year with fewer than 10 from Long and Bryan, Kelly said.
Kelly said the students are better served with consolidated resources and that if students were sent to their respective schools, each school would not be able to meet the students’ needs.
“There is no insulation and no amount of paint and refurbishing can make the building ‘new,’” Kelly said after the meeting. “I feel very confident that a suitable, alternate location within the district will be found that can house this program if the BOE members vote to close the building. The program for these students will not end, it will just be located in a ‘better’ place.”
Discussion indicated that the board was leaning toward moving the academy in its entirety.
After about 25 minutes, the board voted not to put more money into the current facility but put off making a firm decision until after a later capital projects analysis.
The BoE also approved the following action items Tuesday:
• A $55,982 Dixie Fence Co. bid for Liberty County High School baseball field improvements and fencing and drainage improvements
• A $55,561 change order for Olvey Field Phase II caused by unsuitable soils in the locations of piers and footing.
• A $22,306 bid from Calico Industries for annual nutrition department smallware replacements
• A construction change directive for Olvey Field Phase II to accommodate improvements at the Pre-K Center that include adding a new entryway and remodeling the media and office areas
• A $10,900 bid from VIP Office Furniture & Supply for printing of the 2012-13 student handbook