School starts

A new middle school for Alexandria-area students is under construction.

Construction on a nearly $17 million middle school in Alexandria that local officials broke ground on last year is more than halfway completed, according to Calhoun County Schools’ superintendent.

Students in grades five through eight are likely to move into the new building, which rises near Alexandria Elementary and high schools, in January, Superintendent Joe Dyar said Monday.

“We have plenty of room to move those four grades over there, and probably have a few extra classrooms available for growth,” Dyar said by phone.

As the project in Alexandria progresses, a handful of other multimillion-dollar high school renovations do, too, funded by a $52 million bond issue. System officials got the loan in 2016 to fuel the update campaign, which will see major changes made to high schools in Wellborn, Weaver, and Saks.

In Alexandria, contractors must turn the new school over to teachers and students before February, and will then begin demolishing the old building that served as the community’s middle school, local architect Bill Whittaker said.

“It’s going to be one of the nicer schools in the system,” Whittaker, whose own son will attend the school, said Monday by phone.

Officials agreed to spend more on the project late last year, adding approximately $1.4 million for a special education suite described by the architect as “state of the art.”

Railroad Drive, which ran along the school campus’ western edge and had to be moved to account for the middle school’s design, has been relocated, Whittaker said.

The road remains unpaved, though, and will be until construction on the new school is finished, he said. Local traffic has been rerouted onto the nearby Love Lane.

Meanwhile, a nearly $6 million renovation of Walter Wellborn High School is underway, and at the same approximate level of completion as that of Alexandria Middle School, Dyar said.

New brick will cover the old school building, which will also get a new roof.

“The place is totally changed,” the superintendent said. Those changes won’t be skin deep: New furniture, lighting, technology, tile, paint, wiring and windows will be installed, too, Dyar said.

The same sort of work is planned at Weaver High School and Saks High School, he said, though Saks won’t be cloaked in new brick. Both schools will also get new buildings to house agricultural education classes.

The renovation at Weaver is likely to cost nearly $12 million, Dyar said, while changes to Saks are estimated to cost approximately $9 million. Both projects are just beginning, he said, and likely will take nearly two years to finish.

The superintendent said all four projects were needed because the schools’ facilities were outdated. Some of those facilities — like those at Saks High — hadn’t seen a comprehensive update since construction, Dyar has said.

“I’m very proud of our board to have the vision to look ahead ... so we can continue to stay on the cutting edge not just in instruction, but in capital projects,” Dyar said.

 

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