The board has been trying to decide how to reorganize the school system and potentially capitalize on an unofficial proposal from the city to buy the existing middle school on Alabama 21.
The projects ranged from an estimated $8.7 million to convert Golden Springs Elementary to $12 million to build the wing from the ground up at Anniston High School. The plans are generic at this stage and would have to be fine-tuned by the board, which could affect the final cost, said architect Seawell McKee.
Representing McKee and Associates, McKee provided the estimates so the board members could compare the costs as they decide how to proceed. McKee said he was donating his time so the members would have the best information to make a decision.
“So, feel free to use a lot of my time,” McKee said. “This is the fun stuff that we do.”
Converting Cobb Elementary would require enlarging each classroom to 780 square feet, the minimum recommended by the state Department of Education for 26 middle school-aged students. The school would need a new gymnasium, library with computer stations, two special education and one gifted enrichment rooms, band and choral rooms and a computer lab, McKee said. The plan would also require the city to vacate a portion of a street that lies between the school system’s properties.
It would be slightly easier to renovate at Golden Springs Elementary and the cost reflects that, McKee said.
Renovations at Tenth Street Elementary would be “very, very complicated,” McKee said. Site work alone would eat up $1.3 million and would require cutting into the hillside on which the school is built, he said. That renovation would cost approximately $10.5 million.
Superintendent Joan Frazier asked how much it would cost to tear down an elementary school and build a new middle school on the property. McKee said to build a 70,000-square-foot school for about 400 seventh- and eighth-graders would cost about $9 million. New construction could generate savings because, said McKee, “you’re not restricted by an existing building, so to speak.”
“The other advantage of that is you can now organize the school in a better educational model,” he said.
To build a new seventh- and eighth-grade wing at the high school would cost about $12 million, McKee estimated
In addition to the work on the schools, the system also would have to relocate its central offices, now in a wing of the middle school. The board was considering using the vocational building on the corner of Woodstock Avenue and 11th Street. That renovation would cost approximately $1.2 million, McKee said.
McKee suggested the board figure out how much money it could put towards debt each year and he could work from that amount to figure up a plan. But coming up with that figure was a problem for the board members.
“You’re going to have to get that answer by calling 236-3422,” said board member Bill Robison. “That’s the Anniston city manager’s office.”
McKee said the city has committed some of its new sales tax increase to the school system. The board could use that to create a budget, he said. Frazier and Robison pointed out that the City Council has never said exactly how much of that money, generated by the one-cent sales tax increase that took effect earlier this year, it would give to the school system.
“Most of the cost is going to have to come from the city because the board is committed to using any savings from the reorganization for educational purposes,” Robison said. “Therefore our money’s going to have to come from other cash flow that we can stand within the system — whatever Jimmie (Thompson, financial officer for the school system) and Joan can squeeze and what the council’s willing to put up buying this building and extra.”
The board scheduled a work session for July 24 to discuss system reorganization further.
In other business, the board members:
• Approved renting the high school facilities to the Anniston Runners Club the first weekend in August for the Woodstock 5K. The club will not have to pay a rental fee, but will pay for maintenance costs.
• Approved 4-0 an organizational chart defining the system’s employees’ job descriptions and hierarchy. Board President Mary Harrington abstained from the vote.
• Approved a student code of conduct. The code is unchanged from the past school year.
• Approved athletic supplements for coaches and assistants at the high school.