2011-01-27 / Front Page

So. Fulton Building Options Revealed

Board to further discuss feasibility study possibilities
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Former school administrator Dr. David Stricker told members of the Southern Fulton School Board last week their willingness to consider options regarding the future of district facilities is a “huge deal.”

“You have a board policy that talks about facility planning in the school district, which is a good thing ... . This is one piece to that planning puzzle,” stated Stricker, an education planner with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates (CRA), during a sitdown with the board and administration on January 18.

Stricker, along with senior project manager Harry Pettoni, distributed to those in attendance a district-wide facility study outlining more than one dozen options involving the elementary, high school and the former elementary. Suggestions pitched to the school officials included taking no action and leaving facilities as is; systemic renovations only; and even renovations, additions and/or alterations with some thought given to on-site vocational-technical programming and a middle school wing.

The information in the feasibility study, according to Stricker, will serve as a “springboard” for future work. Input was given throughout the compilation of the study by a study team comprised of community members Anna Thompson, Carole Zirkle, Donna Beale, Kelly Ward, Karlin Lynch, David Smith, Aaron Meredith, Ed Layton; school board member Patrick Bard; school administrators Kendra Trail, Meredith Hendershot, Theresa Corle, Diane Younker; teachers Terry Shade and Rodney Leese; and Mike Shaw, building and grounds manager.

CRA officials and the study team learned through surveys completed at the elementary school that current areas not meeting the needs of staff and students are undersized special education rooms, tutoring and special service areas and conference rooms for parent/staff meetings. General comments provided indicate humidity runs high in the building, and the overall temperature is not adequate. In addition, technology infrastructure upgrades are needed as well as secure building access at the main office.

In turning their sights to the high school, surveys revealed inadequacies in storage, science labs, weight room, vocationaltechnical space, library and a need for a more secure front entry.

Concerning vocational-technical programming, Stricker noted the possibility exists that the district could completely withdraw from the Fulton County Area Vocational-Technical School (FCAVTS) in order to offer its own career and technical curriculum. On the reverse side, Stricker went on to say the district could offer select technical courses at the high school without state reimbursement requirements being fulfilled for program completers or continue forward with the FCAVTS in hopes of improving opportunities.

Pettoni gave an overview of various facility options but started off with the most simple and cost-effective avenue of systemic renovations. Areas targeted in this avenue are HVAC upgrades, handicapped accessibility, security, and exterior and interior renovations to make the existing facilities more energy efficient.

Projected expenses could potentially increase to $7,006,633 with a millage equivalent of 2.36 mills if approval would be given to systemic renovations, additions and an extra area for administrators at the elementary. In comparison, suggested systemic renovations and alterations at the high school could run an estimated $10,200,805. This proposal would allow for five career and technical programs to be offered at the school within the existing building blueprint.

With approximately 14 options available, the final suggestion given to school officials by Pettoni tallied $13,839,408 in estimated construction costs related to systemic renovations at the high school, renovations to accommodate five career and technology programs and a secure main entryway. Projected reimbursement from the state is estimated at $3,638,603, bringing the project cost minus reimbursement to $10, 200,805. The millage equivalent has been accordingly calculated at 3.5 mills.

Pros to be weighed in selecting this option, Pettoni said, are upgrades to equipment, energy efficiency and classrooms/programming that could potentially keep the district moving forward for at least 20 years; additional career-technology space; more room for special education; and a general classroom wing for seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Dr. Stricker stated the board would need proper time to review the study as they “have a lot of platters spinning as usual” when considering annual votech needs and budget concerns. During that time, however, certain issues such as rotting windows and energy inefficiency will not go away.

Financial advisor Gordon Walker followed up on the commentary by CRA officials in pointing out the board’s goal is to keep its numbers as low as possible. The district’s millage will drop with the restructuring of existing debt, stated Walker, who noted the district is unique in that it only has one outstanding bond issue that will pay off quickly.

“You’re out of debt in seven years if you do nothing,” added Walker.

Walker suggested the board narrow down the options given during the January 18 presentation in order for issues ranging from debt restructuring to millage rates to be properly addressed.

While no formal decisions were made by the board, Superintendent Kendra Trail announced the district will indeed be giving a hard look at short-, mid- and long-term goals.

A full version of CRA’s presentation is tentatively slated to be placed on the district’s Web site for availability to the public.

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