Last updated: October 18. 2013 12:47PM - 1530 Views
By - mstrother@civitasmedia.com

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The Troup County Board of Education on Thursday approved plans to move forward with building a new Ethel Kight school, moving staff and students from the building for one year as the old building is demolished and new one built.

The project will begin after school lets out for the summer in May. During the 2014-2015 year, students and staff will use the former West Side Magnet School building. The new Ethel Kight school is expected to be completed by July 2015 and reopen for 2015-2016 school year.

“Building a larger Ethel Kight will provide a larger elementary school for the area,” said School system Superintendent Cole Pugh. “Not only will it be larger, but more energy efficient than what’s there now.”

The move is part of the school system’s long-range plan to move from smaller elementary schools to 10 larger schools that are more efficient. Using special-purpose, local-option sales tax, or SPLOST, funds, the school system is looking to expand some schools or build new schools that are centrally located for the 10 elementary school zones it redrew last year.

Pugh said the Advisory Task Force, a group made up of administrators from schools, parents and community members, had looked at the cost of small versus large elementary schools last year and felt that the move toward larger elementary schools was necessary. He cited an “economy of scale” that the task force looked at, which is how much per-student it costs to operate smaller versus larger schools.

Pugh noted that when Cannon Street Elementary School was operating in 2011 with 208 students, its cost per student was $9,981, as opposed to Callaway Elementary School, which has 640 students with a per-student cost of $6,272. Pugh also noted Callaway High School with 794 students has a $7,951 per student cost, and LaGrange High School with 1,370 students has a $6,803 per student cost.

Pugh noted that moving toward fewer facilities will continue to save the school system money. He said the closure of Cannon Street, West Side Magnet School and Unity Elementary School saves $3.3 million per year – not just a one-time cost savings. With austerity fund cuts from the state continuing for years to come, Pugh said trimming annual costs will remain important.

The Ethel Kight construction, budgeted to be about $16 million, will be funded through SPLOST funds. Other construction in the long-range plan to consolidate the system into 10 elementary school zones also will be funded with the SPLOST funds, which can only be used for capital projects, like building construction or renovation.

The Board of Education on Thursday also approved Freeman and Associates Inc. of Columbus as construction manager at risk for the project. The company will have a fee of 6.75 percent of the final project cost, budgeted at $14 million, plus $10,000 for pre-construction services.

Other planned school construction and expansion projects as part of the school system’s plan for 10 elementary school zones in the coming years are:

•Add six to eight classrooms at Callaway Elementary School, $2.1 million in SPLOST funds.

•Add 10 to 12 classrooms at Franklin Forest Elementary School, $3.2 million in SPLOST funds.

•School year 2016-2017: a fifth educational SPLOST will be on the ballot; the school system will begin planning for a second new elementary school, potentially in the southeast area of LaGrange, at a projected cost of $16.6 million in SPLOST funds.

•School year 2017-2018: construct the new elementary school; make classroom additions at other campuses, potentially five to seven classrooms to Hogansville Elementary School, $1.8 million in SPLOST funds, and six to eight classrooms to West Point Elementary School, $2.1 million in SPLOST funds.

•School year 2018-2019: occupy the second new elementary school; close two elementary schools, possibly Mountville and Berta Weathersbee; move the remaining students to their projected elementary attendance zones.

•Other investments planned for 2017 through 2022: repair and upgrades to roofing, HVAC and technology; purchase buses; make physical education improvements and classroom additions for growth. However Pugh noted all investments after 2019 will be based on availability of funding.

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