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Career Academy details set
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The Liberty County Board of Education approved master renovation plans for a fine arts building and also made a decision on the location of the Career Academy during Tuesday evening’s meeting.

Board members approved plans for the Performing Arts Center to receive a facelift and changes to get the building up to code. The plans were presented by representatives from Altman + Barrett Architects, a Valdosta design firm.

"It is a more detailed look at the scope and the things that we would like to do at the fine arts location out there from a renovation standpoint and a modification standpoint," project architect Walter Altman said.

The building currently is used to host concerts, recitals, plays and professional-learning speakers, among other events, according to Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer.

Scherer said she isn’t sure how old the building is, but most of the future work is expected to be renovating and fixing code issues that will take about five months to complete and cost around $2.3 million.

"When all [board members] are satisfied that the plans are what is the best use of the facility, then we will determine when to start the renovations," Scherer said.

Altman suggested a new paint job, carpet replacement, a new heating and air-conditioning system and energy-efficient doors and windows to modernize the building and minimize energy costs. Ideally, the company also would like to renovate the bathrooms, upgrade the lighting and sound, add a ticket booth along with a concession stand and fix the parking lot.

Scherer also recommended moving the Career Academy to the Airport Road property that the board currently owns instead of utilizing the 15 acres the Liberty County Development Authority would have donated to the Liberty County School System. Members approved the recommendation to use the current BoE property instead.

Last month, when BoE members met to discuss the final plans for the academy that would allow students to participate in local employment training and opportunities, it was decided that the language of the contract between the two groups was "too vague" regarding which group would be responsible for the retention pond and utilities on site.

"What we’re proposing to do is go ahead and start the education program at the Career Academy in August when school starts," Scherer told board members. "The construction will be delayed from our original January 2012 [deadline] to August 2012. We have already lost some of that time trying to work out the agreement with the development authority.

"We are proposing to begin offering most of the programs next fall at Bradwell Institute in a school-within-a-school concept using our current facilities along with the existing Savannah Tech campus," she said.

Architects will have to redraw elevation drawings along with assessing a risk analysis, which will create a slight delay, Scherer said. Construction is expected to start in March or April.

"I am very excited to be this close to getting it built. For many years now, I have been convinced that the Career Academy concept is what is best for students — it gives all students the opportunity to fulfill their potential, to obtain meaningful employment and continue their education," she said. "It also will be an economic boost for the community as we work to develop a highly skilled workforce."

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