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Property sale to Georgia DOT to help fund new HVAC at Pepperell High

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The sale of 3.443 acres of property where the old Midway Primary School stands to the Georgia Department of Transportation will generate approximately $1.77 million for Floyd County Schools, to be put toward the cost of replacing the HVAC system at Pepperell High School, according to Superintendent John Jackson.

The Floyd County Board of Education approved the $1,771,700 property sale of the land, which is part of a 9-acre tract near the intersection of Rockmart Highway and Preacher Smith Road, during its Tuesday night meeting. Midway Primary closed its doors after the 2014-2015 school year so GDOT could pursue its plans to widen Rockmart Highway and construct the Southeast Rome bypass. The school is now used for storage and auxiliary purposes, Jackson said.

April Childers, assistant superintendent for the system, said negotiations on the sale have gone on for over three years, and a deal was struck after GDOT changed its acquisition company last month and a fair offer was brought to the table. The initial offer the system was given was for $250,000 that would have only impacted one of the road projects, and the system wasn’t happy with that, she said.

Board members also approved a financial commitment of $2.4 million from the general fund for the approximately $4 million capital project of equipping Pepperell High with a new HVAC system. Chris Toles, the executive director of finance for FCS, said the move authorizes Jackson to transfer the funds when needed and won’t affect the system’s cash balance until that happen.

The system is looking at receiving a $1.1 million reimbursement from the state through its capital outlay program, but it needs to have the money to pay for the project up front. Jackson said the $2.4 million will be used alongside the $1.77 million for the project. The system will begin taking bids for the work this winter, he added.

Tony Daniel, the board vice chairman, emphasized the importance of the proceeds from the property sale staying in the Pepperell district, which he represents.

Three bus drivers were added to the system’s roster as part of personnel changes approved by the board. However, under the same action, the resignations of two bus drivers and a leave of absence for another were also approved. Childers said the system is still looking for about six more drivers, as some coordinators in the system’s transportation department are going out on routes. The lack of drivers has been a theme over the last few years, she said.

It’s hard to go anywhere in Georgia and not see “drivers wanted” signs, said Childers, attributing the shortage to generational differences, as there are less stay-at-home moms who can meet the schedule demands now than in previous generations. A better economy is one factor Jackson points to, as people who may have relied on bus driving during the Great Recession have gotten new, full-time jobs.

The board was presented the sick leaves and absences policy during a first reading. The policy has two changes to it: the number of earned sick days for classified employees was bumped to 12.5 and grandparents were included in the definition of immediate family members.

Changes to the student code of conduct were also brought before the board, for information purposes only. One change was made to correspond with state law — a conference between parents of a suspended “chronic disciplinary problem student” and a school official must happen before the student can return to class.

Also, the grade levels for students eligible to attend the transitional academy, which is for students whose “behavior precludes continued attendance in the regular school program,” was expanded to include third, fourth and fifth grades. Previously, only students in grades six through 12 could go to the academy.

Armuchee High was the spotlight school for the meeting, as Principal John Rhodarmer demonstrated the workshop model for board members.