Officials at Floyd County Schools are awaiting notification from the state Department of Education on whether either of the two site applications submitted for a new Pepperell Middle School are approved.
Last month, Floyd County Board of Education members chose the site of the baseball field at Pepperell High as their top choice for construction of a new middle school. A tract off Landers Drive, south of the high school football field, is the second choice to build. Site applications for both were submitted.
While waiting on the state DOE’s decision, the deadline of Aug. 15 approaches, when the school system must have the site approved and its application for state capital outlay funding submitted.
And if they are not approved, then construction will be delayed until next year and those two sites will be taken out of consideration, said Superintendent Jeff Wilson. The school system cannot afford to build without the reimbursement funding from the state, he continued, especially with construction costs projected to continue going up. By delaying a year, the cost of constructing the school is estimated to be millions more than the originally thought $20 million — to be funded by an extension of the 1-cent education local option sales tax.
“We’re in desperate need of relief,” Wilson said.
Neither of the sites are excellent choices, Wilson said.
On one end, the baseball field would have to be relocated, bringing on over a million more in additional expenses. Also, some members of the community have voiced concerns about moving the field, conveying that they like it where it is at, Wilson said.
For the Landers Drive site, the school system would have to spend around $3.2 million for soil remediation and installation of piling to build on the site.
During Tuesday’s meeting, board member Tony Daniel, who represents the Pepperell district, commended Pepperell Middle Principal Becky McCoy for pushing through the struggles which come from a school in certain need of being replaced, and doing so without complaints. He pointed to last week’s case of having to put numerous trash cans in the hall to catch leaks from significant rainfall.
If construction is delayed, Wilson said community meetings will be planned to share information about plans moving forward, including talks on possible consolidation, which the Pepperell district will be in the center of such discussions, in the school system.
“We’re gonna do what we need to do to take care of kids,” he said.
For the modernization of Armuchee High — the school system’s other major ELOST project, which is projected to cost around $26.3 million, — plans are for work crews to mobilize by Oct. 1 on initial work of constructing a new gym, said Director of Facilities David Van Hook. Bids are being requested for the work on the new gym, which is estimated to cost almost $6 million.
The new gym is the first phase of athletic improvements at the school, Van Hook said. The second phase includes work on converting the auxiliary gym into a field house as well as improvements to the football stadium and track. The field house project will be the first of phase two.
Early last month, board members chose to do external improvements first, so as to not break up pieces of modernization on the school building, namely to not install a new roof and HVAC system before the rest of the work inside is ready to begin.
There were concerns that doing the roofing and HVAC work first could create problems with other components of modernizing the school later on. The school system did have an evaluation of the roof by a structural engineer, who found it was not at risk of collapse.