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School board to consider moving forward with capital projects

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Board of Education will consider taking the next step toward completing a number of capital projects during a voting session on Jan 19 at Jemison Intermediate School.

The voting session will be at 6 p.m. with a work session scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Superintendent Jason Griffin said during a work session on Jan. 14 he will be requesting that the board approve moving forward with getting architectural drawings on top priority projects.

These include classroom additions at Chilton County and Isabella high schools, property upgrades behind Jemison High School, the roof for LeCroy Career Technical Center, additional women’s bathrooms at LeCroy Career Technical Center, the Verbena High School parking lot (to fix a sink hole), Verbena Annex parking lot, a building to house the school system’s servers and technology as well as upgrades to stadiums seating and lights.

Projects are being discussed to decide how to spend the $9.3 million the school system will receive from a state bond issue.

This was the second work session on the topic, after the board asked for another meeting before the vote was taken.

Board President Pam Price said the previous list given to the board for consideration by the superintendent was drafted without input from the board.

“Going around to the schools and listening to our principals, I felt like the principals and the board too were not asked about prioritizing (projects) that is why we wanted to go back to the table,” Price said.

Griffin said the initial list had been drafted based on the five-year capital projects plan, which had previously been presented to the board, drafted by the capital projects plan committee. The plan is only for projects that would be $50,000 or more.

Griffin said getting architectural drawings would give a better idea of what the school system’s options are.

Maintenance Supervisor Freddy Smith said many of the stadium lights are concerning as a potential safety hazard due to woodpecker damage on poles, damaged wiring and being near the capacity of what the outdated electrical system can handle.

“I personally feel like we are in the business of education, extracurricular comes next,” Price said, commenting on the stadium and light needs.

Griffin said some of the stadium bleacher pose a safety risk.

Board member Keith Moore said the safety issues that “Smith said were dangerous, wiring and poles about to fall” need to be addressed.

Getting architectural drawing for the roof at Thorsby High School, which had previously been listed as the top priority on the school system’s capital projects plan, has already been approved.

Each principal present was given time to talk about the needs at their school. As in the first work session, Jemison High School Principal Kendall Jackson spoke about the need for a band room addition or a new band room.

“I am 100% behind either expanding the band room at Jemison High School or building them a new one,” Griffin said.

Jackson said she felt like the community was being told one thing and something different was being done.

“We are getting mixed messages,” Jackson said.

The land behind the school has been mentioned as a possible location for a new band room, but it is essentially a ditch that would need to be filled in.

“I don’t know what it is going to take to make that land useable until I have an architectural drawing and price it,” Griffin said.

Jackson said their needs to be a process for knowing where the project stands and working together.

“What is your plan at Jemison? What are you going to do as a board when you say, ‘that (dirt work) costs too much?’” Jackson said. “… We are concerned that there is no plan that we are just grasping.”

Price said developing this land would be the best option.

Jackson said making the property useable would help for the future because additional general classrooms are going to be needed in a few years.

Jemison Middle School Principal Christy Mims also spoke about the need for the band room because her students use the same building as JHS. Mims highlighted the need for a multipurpose building that would help academics and athletics.

Isabella Principal Ricky Porter said additional classrooms was the greatest need at his school.

“We had to turn 40 something Pre-K kids away from the classrooms because we don’t have space to put them,” Porter said.

Thorsby High School Principal Corey Clements talked about the need for a fence around the playground. He said the school had raised $10,000 for the project and had been told the board would meet them halfway on the project.

Clanton Elementary School Principal Rebecca Threkeld mentioned the need for upgrades to bathrooms and adding awnings.

Dr. Shannon Walker highlighted the importance of restrooms for female students in the automotive and welding classes as well as additional classroom space for the construction program. The bathrooms are a requirement from the state and the accreditation organization for the automotive program.

Getting any capital improvement project to the building stage is a three-step process: secure architectural drawings, send the project out to bid and approve a bid.

Because architectural drawings can be expensive, as much as $15,000 for one set by some estimates given in the work session, prioritizing which projects to get drawings for is important.

Smith and Griffin said since each school system in the state has received additional funds for projects and the demand for construction materials has increased in general, the longer the board takes to decide the more expensive it will likely be.