DeKalb County Commissioners got their first look Monday night at school building construction options under consideration by the Board of Education.
The County Commission’s Education Committee along with other commissioners and the County Mayor met with Director of Schools Patrick Cripps and the Board of Education.
Derrick Clemow and Brian Templeton of Upland Design Group, the Board of Education’s architect, reviewed with the school board members and county commissioners findings of the needs and alternatives for meeting them.
A facilities study by Upland Design concluded that DeKalb West School was in the best condition and should remain as is; that Smithville Elementary needs to be replaced and repurposed; and that issues exist at Northside Elementary, DCHS, and DeKalb Middle Schools which should be addressed.
Last fall Upland Design presented six options for the board to consider but has narrowed them down to three at the Board’s request.
One of the options (Scheme-E) calls for closing Smithville Elementary School; keeping DeKalb West School as is; converting Northside Elementary to a Pre-K to 8th grade school (existing site); building two new additional Pre-K through 8th grade schools (sites to be determined); and repurposing the existing middle school to the high school (existing location) for use as a 9th grade academy. The total estimated construction cost is $26,800,000. This option would also require the county to be zoned meaning students would have to attend the elementary school within the zone where they reside.
(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW OPTION OR SCHEME-E)
A second option (Scheme-F) calls for construction of a new high school at a new site (core capacity of 1,200 students) with new athletic facilities, etc (modeled after Stone Memorial High School in Crossville); keeping DeKalb West School as is; Closing Smithville Elementary School; converting Northside Elementary to a Pre-K to 5th grade school; Converting the existing middle school to a Pre-K to 5th grade school; Converting the existing high school to a middle school (6th-8th grades). The total estimated construction cost is $45,100,000.
(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW OPTION OR SCHEME-F)
The third and newest option (Scheme-G) is to close Smithville Elementary School; construct a new Pre-K to 2nd grade school (new site to be determined); keeping DeKalb West School and Northside Elementary as they are; Construction of a new Middle School (6th to 8th grades at a new site to be determined); and repurposing the existing middle school to the high school (existing location) for use as a 9th grade academy. Total estimated construction cost $29,930,000.
(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW OPTION OR SCHEME-G)
Since these options were developed the board has asked Upland Design to modify them to accommodate more students to meet future needs, especially in the event the state should ever mandate pre-kindergarten which would bring more students into the school system. These modifications could also affect the estimated costs.
Director of Schools Patrick Cripps said he would like to see the county build a new elementary school and a new high school.
“We have been asked what school do you want? I truly don’t believe one school will do it because of the needs we have. We have outgrown our schools. The high school has from 5 to 7 teachers that roam. They don’t have their own classrooms. Smithville Elementary is packed as well and so is the middle school where you have to go through classrooms to get to classrooms. In the vocational building at the high school we have classrooms in offices and this summer we are looking at dividing a classroom just to create a new classroom. There are challenges within each building that are unique that we are having to face. So when someone asks which school do you want to build, I can’t say there is a (one) school because we need schools (more than one). We realize there is a dollar amount to be paid for this but we have to come up with a vision. We can’t keep doing just one school every 30 years. It has caught up with us. I don’t like it anymore than you do. I hate asking for money but that is what we are doing because we need schools and to best serve our students we need schools, not just one school. If you ask me which scheme I like, I would love to have a brand new high school and a new Smithville Elementary,” said Cripps.
More meetings are expected in the weeks and months ahead between the Board of Education and County Commissioners to try and reach a consensus on the best option and whether and when to move forward.