The Calhoun County Board of Education on Thursday approved borrowing just over $55 million through a bond issue to pay for a host of new buses, a new middle school and renovations to three high schools.

Board members agreed to seek issuance of two bonds. The first, valued at $3,042,765, will pay for 35 new buses for the system’s fleet; the other, for $52,085,000, will pay for construction of a new Alexandria Middle School, as well as renovations at Saks, Weaver, and Walter Wellborn high schools, according to Superintendent Joe Dyar.

“We feel like those four projects are the priority, with aging buildings and student growth,” Dyar said after the board’s meeting. “Those are the pressing needs at this particular time.”

Board members began publicly discussing a new middle school in Alexandria in October of 2014, eventually choosing local architect Bill Whittaker to design the school.

The board on Thursday awarded the contract for renovations to Saks High School to McKee & Associates, a Montgomery firm who offered plans for the redesign in October of last year.

Dyar said Thursday a final plan for that renovation hasn’t been settled on yet, but that it should stay within a previously given price range of $4 million to $7 million.

The superintendent hopes to have the three renovation projects as well as work on the new middle school happening concurrently, he said, “so we can get this all completed in the next two to three years.”

Chief schools financial officer Tina Parris said after the board’s meeting that with approval of the bond issue, purchase orders for the 35 buses could be signed Friday.

Banyon Allison, director of transportation, expects to receive the buses between nine and 12 weeks after that order is submitted to Southland International, the company chosen Thursday to supply the buses. He expects them on their routes by next school year.

Eleven of those buses are designated for students with special needs, and will replace the same number of such buses now over 10 years old among the 143 total in the system’s fleet. Allison said 23 of the system’s general use buses are now over that age and need to be cycled out of use.

In other business, the board:

  • Recognized Holly Box, an executive director in the central office, as employee of the month, and Saks Elementary School teacher Brettny Hunter as technology teacher of the month. The board also praised Pleasant Valley High School’s girls’ cross country team for winning the Class 3A state championship, and Saks High School’s Lady Wildcats, victors in Calhoun County’s basketball tournament.
  • Declared as surplus an unknown number of computers and other office equipment.
  • Awarded new contracts to current principals of system schools: Kevin Lockridge, principal of the Calhoun County Career Academy, formerly the Calhoun County Career and Technical Center, and Wendy England, principal of Saks Middle School.
  • Approved a 2015-2016 school calendar, adding two more e-learning days, when students can get credit for school work done online.
  • Heard public comment from Alabama Education Association Uniserv District 14 Director Angela Morgan, who praised the system for paying out-of-pocket for benefits and insurance offered to teachers who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. State law allows for such expense to be taken from the $5,000 allotment for certified teachers taken from the Education Trust Fund.

 

Staff writer Zach Tyler: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @ZTyler_Star.