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Schools have millions for projects
ESPLOST providing work; elementary cut possible
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On the heels of master-plan proposals for the Coastal Academy and Liberty County’s elementary schools, the Liberty County Board of Education recently prioritized projects for the next round of Education SPLOST expenditures.

The discussion came at the request of Deputy Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Conley and Assistant Superintendent Jason Rogers, who said that after current projects are closed out, the board will have about $8.5 million in SPLOST funds to spend in the upcoming fiscal year.

“My concern is, I don’t want to overspend, but I don’t want to let everything run down at one time and then have to come up with this huge chunk of money because we need to carpet four schools at one time,” board member Marcia Anderson said.

Conley said the master plans compiled by BRPH Architects and Altman+Barrett Architects will help prioritize the needs at each school.

Anderson suggested the board list the most immediate projects first and less critical for subsequent years.

“We don’t have to make hard, fast decisions tonight that can’t be changed,” Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said. “But what we do need is some … direction on how to keep things moving because all of your major construction projects are going to end probably in August.”

After more discussion, the board put the following capital projects on its FY 2013 list:

• $2,600,000 in technology upgrades accommodate more mobile devices connecting to school internet networks
• $200,000 in annual capital maintenance and operations expenditures
• $450,000 in large equipment purchases for food service, transportation, maintenance and operations
• $100,000 for immediate elementary needs such as carpet, playgrounds, sinks and paint
• $180,000 to add security cameras to several facilities
• $150,000 to add intruder alarm systems at the facilities that are unarmed
• $100,000 in exterior projects to comply with Georgia Emergency Management Association recommendations

Because the board could not come to a consensus on an elementary-schools plan Conley presented, Vice Chairwoman Verdell Jones suggested the board verbally OK a list with $4.7 million in tentative projects and revisit the topic later.

“You helped us tremendously, and I think we got the dialogue started that we wanted to get started,” Rogers said.

That dialogue included a proposal that would respond to renovation or reconstruction needs at three schools — but it also would likely require rezoning, new construction or reducing the current number of elementary schools.

“This is as good a time as any to start these very difficult and hard conversations — and be kind to us in the papers as we start to plan for years and years and years …,” Conley said, adding that this proposal is a longer-term plan that would require about a couple of years before implementation.

The proposal includes splitting the Jordye Bacon campus to house the Coastal Academy on one portion and the middle-school ombudsman on the other, eliminating JBE as an elementary school and increasing the capacity at Button Gwinnett, either through renovation or reconstruction.

Conley said 750 is the ideal elementary-school enrollment number, and the current district elementary enrollment would fill 6.8 elementary schools. LCSS operates eight elementary schools. LCSS enrollment numbers have fallen each month since the second month of the 2011-2012 school year, according to enrollment reports from Student Services.

BGE has room for expansion, but its cafeteria is only able to serve 550 students, Conley said. The proposal would include increasing the cafeteria output to serve 750.

Architects said the oldest school, Jordye Bacon, also has an immediate need for renovation if it is to continue serving 550 students. But Conley’s proposal would eliminate Jordye Bacon as an elementary school.

Other potential projects included:
• $8 million renovation or remodeling at the Bradwell Institute gym
• $150,000 in upgrades to the Liberty County High School food service area
• $2 million in interior upgrades to comply with GEMA recommendations
• $250,000 to provide wells and irrigations to school facilities that do not have it
• $190,000 in facility upgrades at the maintenance and operations/transportation site

The board recently completed $5.9 million on capital projects including paving at four schools, Olvey Field Phase I, Bradwell Institute phase 4 stage 1 renovations and installation of HVAC at Snelson-Golden Middle School.

Another $32.5 million in projects are in the works, including the Liberty College and Career Academy, Liberty Performing Arts Center, the next steps at Bradwell and Olvey Field, window tinting at two properties and assessments and master planning.

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