Second of two parts on new education tax projects. Click here to read first report on Rome City Schools.
By Natalie Simms
While Floyd County School officials continue planning the construction phases for modernization upgrades at Armuchee High School and a new Pepperell Middle School as part of the new Education Special Local Option Sales Tax package, staying within the allocated $48 million budget is a top priority.
The E-SPLOST V package was approved by voters in November 2017 as a 1-cent sales tax that will begin collections on April 1 after the current package ends on March 31. Of the new $80 million total package, Floyd County Schools will receive an estimated $48.8 million and other $31.2 million going to Rome City Schools.
The upgrades at Armuchee High and new Pepperell Middle School are the top Tier I projects to be funded, other Tier II projects will be funded if money is available. There are seven major renovations planned at AHS, which include:
- A newly designed school entrance, along with new office and administration area.
- A new exterior design that includes a new raised roof in the hallways to allow for more natural lighting throughout the school
- A new auditorium featuring new floor, seating, lighting, new sound system, new sound and lighting control booth and new décor.
- A new media center that would be relocated to the current administrative area featuring latest media technology.
- A revitalized stadium to include enhancement to home stands, new visitor stands, new sod for field, new eight-lane latex competition track, new modern concession stands and new modern field house for athletes.
- A new gymnasium with stadium seating for 1,200 and sight lines to enhance fan experience.
- The lunchroom will be modernized with new kitchen and dining area.
FCS received a $10 million bond to begin work on AHS before tax collections began. The total cost estimate for AHS projects is $25 million. Construction on phase 1 of renovations at AHS began in November 2018, which includes the new gymnasium, pumphouse, new water retention and stormwater management system and electrical upgrades.
“This will happen in phases. We are currently developing these phase plans to get as much of the work completed as soon as possible. However, the ESPLOST bond had $10 million for AHS and that will be mostly expended in phase 1 of this project. That means that other project phases will not be able to take place until they can be paid for with ESPLOST collections,” says David Van Hook, FCS Director of Facilities.
“Current cost estimates have not changed. We have a budget and must build to that budget. We are working with the construction manager and the architects to ensure we stay within the budget which has been allocated.”
The first phase of construction is expected to be completed this December. But there are still many variables in play as to when the other phases will begin.
“Some of the variables that must be considered are phasing priorities, ESPLOST collections, State Capital Outlay funding and rain,” he says. “We had 8.96 inches of rain at AHS between Feb. 18 and Feb. 25.”
In the meantime, the county school system is doing their best to minimize construction impacts to students and staff at AHS.
“There will some impacts and inconveniences because the site was not designed to house an operating school and an active construction project,” says Van Hook. “However, we hope to keep these issues as minor as possible. Our team is made of people who (from the school principal to the architect) have managed construction on an active high school campus in the past. We communicate regularly to make sure we have a plan for any upcoming activity that will impact the school.”
Van Hook and his staff are also working on finalizing plans for the new Pepperell Middle School. Most of the current school at 200 Hughes Dairy Road in Lindale will be gone this summer.
“We will demolish and replace everything but the detached gym on the current property. The gym that is to remain will be renovated and the new building will be attached to that gym,” he says. “We are in the planning phase for relocating the staff and students. We will begin demolition as soon as the building is empty. We are working with the team to finalize plans for the new building and plan to begin construction this fall.”
A budget of $20 million has been allocated for the new school. According to Van Hook, “We are working with the construction managers and the architect to ensure that we stay within that budget. At this time, we have no reason to believe we will not be within the allocated budget.”
This project will have a considerable impact on students and staff. The current plan is to relocate the sixth and seventh grades to McHenry Primary School. McHenry will be permanently closing as a primary school at the end of this school year. Eighth graders will be going to Pepperell High School during construction.
“We anticipate being in the new building by New Year’s Day 2021. We are still in the design phase for this project and we are looking for ways to shorten the construction schedule, but this is the current projection,” says Van Hook.
As for Tier II projects, these will have to wait until AHS and PMS projects are complete to see if any funding is available.
“The ESPLOST referendum was set up such that the entire collection amount could be used for the two Tier I projects if needed. Once those projects are complete, any remaining money from collections can be used for Tier II projects. It is set up this way to provide a contingency fund, which would be used to cover any cost overages in Tier I projects,” he says.
Previously suggested Tier II projects include:
- New roof for Model Elementary School
- Systemwide technology improvements and equipment (Chromebooks)
- New lunchroom for Garden Lakes Elementary
- New access road for the College and Career Academy
- Acquire school buses and school-related vehicles and transportation facilities
“Once Armuchee High School and Pepperell Middle School projects are complete, the school board will be presented with options and available funding for other projects,” he says.