- Published on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 00:52
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The School Board is once again considering future uses for the former middle school building.
That topic came up at last week’s meeting on Feb. 25, while the School Board was discussing a proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) request to the county totaling $8.1 million that is expected to be finalized at next week’s meeting on March 11. The proposal contains 15 projects.
The former middle school building was ceremoniously closed for student use in June 2009. That took place after the completion and opening of a new 1,700-pupil high school earlier that year, built at a cost of over $42 million.
In September 2009, the School Board shifted the 7th and 8th grades from the former middle school building to the vacated former high school building to become the county’s middle school. Opening the new high school provided significant student capacity at the secondary level.
Portions of the former middle school building continue to be used by the county’s Parks & Recreation department, particularly the gym. It’s unclear whether any school division programs are using the building.
Also, in June 2011, the Smoot Library was granted a two-year lease for the central section of the building to enable it to continue to serve the public while its own building was undergoing renovation along with construction of a 15,000 square-foot addition to the existing 10,000 square foot facility. That project is nearing completion.
CURRENT DISCUSSION ON USE OF FORMER MS BUILDING
The discussion of the future use of the former middle school building was spawned because the proposed CIP contains a request for a new heating-ventilation-and-air conditioning (HVAC) system for the building with a price tag of $1.5 million.
A similar request for that was in last year’s School Board CIP request, but was removed by the county, since there is no desire or money from the governing body to fund expensive upgrades on a building for which there are no definite plans for future use.
Last week, School Board members discussed potential uses for the building, as has been done numerous times over the last several years.
There was a recurring suggestion by Rick Randall that it might be used as the central school board office and for early childhood education classes.
Randall suggested, in that case, the current School Board Office building could be vacated, with that building possibly handed over to the county. Currently, the gym on the same site is no longer used by the school division and instead is exclusively used by the Parks & Recreation.
The same thing goes for Hunter Field, since a new sports stadium was completed by the county at the high school site last fall.
It’s clear that the School Board must decide on a use for the former middle school if it is going to continue to ask for upgrades to it.
Superintendent Rob Benson provided his opinion, saying he thought that Head Start and the Early Childhood Education programs would be better served if they were shifted into the former middle school building. Benson added that would allow for some additional expansion of those programs.
About future use of the building, Benson also said, “What I foresee, is that sitting here today, it may be needed in three years out. It’s all going to be contingent on growth. And there are a number of factors that are in play for our county that would impact that one way or the other. But very likely in two or three years it may be a very urgent priority.”
With the necessity of deciding on a use for the building if costly projects are going to be requested for it, Chairman John Davis agreed to add the topic to the next meeting’s agenda.
There was consensus for that discussion, with Mike Rose saying he had been working on a growth and capacity analysis with current student enrollment figures and would provide that at the next meeting.
Previously, the most popular option suggested for the former school building included use as an intermediate school, along with the possibility of using it to house school board offices, for early childhood education, or as an elementary school.