WINNSBORO — School safety and school construction were key items discussed at the August meeting of the Fairfield County School Board. Superintendent of Schools, J.R. Green said the district has a new Safe Schools Tip Line in place where parents, students and community members can call and notify about any potential hazards to students. David Corley, the school safety coordination and hearing officer negotiated to house deputies at Geiger Elementary, Kelly Miller Elementary and McCrorey Liston Elementary. Though not technically school resource officers because they would have to leave the school building if there were a call, these officers will patrol the school grounds and provide a community liaison function to promote healthy relationships with students and community members as well as improve security. Noting that there is insufficient funding at this time to place school resource officers in each elementary school, Superintendent of Schools J.R. Green said, “We thank Sheriff Herman Young and Chief Deputy Keith Lewis for working with the district to come up with this way to address school security.”
Brownstone Design presented that the new career center construction project is going well overall and remains on schedule. It is on track for design development to be completed by September. Construction documents should be ready the end of January 2014 and at that time the 30-45 day bid and award process begins. By April the lowest responsible contractors will be notified of their bids and acceptance. Construction should be completed by June 2015.
The firm is working with the South Carolina Department of Transportation to plan for changed traffic patterns on Highway 321. Members of the architect firm met with all the individual staff currently at the Career Center and went over needs and wants the staff might have for particular space in a new building and then the firm signed off on what it determined the true needs were. So far, the floor plan is being developed. Site surveying is done. An existing retaining wall still is being investigated because it will be adjacent to the new facility and needs to either be repaired or removed as part of the career center project.
Brownstone presented a 12-part budget with a cost estimate of $11.5 million for the building itself and said that estimate was verified by an independent cost estimator. Allowances for equipment are budgeted at $800,000.
There are site challenges because the site is located between two schools. Utilities must be relocated and some subsurface work needs to be done. DOT requirements must be met for roadways and parking areas. Separate car and bus traffic is a priority.The building will have a low slope roof. With HVAC training, a machine shop and a welding facility, this building needs a high ceiling with no attic so inert gases and combustible materials lack a place to build up and pose a safety hazard. Infared scans from an independent roofing consultant can check the roof for potential leaks as it is being constructed. A geotechnical firm completed a study of the ground doing core drilling to assess soil type, the water table and how compacted the soil was/was not.
Stone columns need to be inserted to support the building. Brownstone representatives said they are spending a lot of time and money do to due diligence now because there will be a lot of heavy equipment on site later. They estimated stone columns will cost around $300,000 and the site work will cost over $1 million. The schematic design and concepts passed 7-0.
In other construction news, Green said the district determined it could save money in the long run by consolidating utilities and maintenance at one location instead of three locations as currently is the case. A proposal to pave the parking lot of the current Career Center passed 7-0. Gordon Odyssey Academy Programs, maintenance and transportation will move into that facility once the new career center is completed on Highway 321. Currently, the old career center does not meet state guidelines for the depth of the pavement, for needing a security fence and for needing security cameras. Storing buses at the current career center frees up space in the middle school parking lot. Green has discussed with FMS principal Dr. Robin Hardy ideas for adding recreation areas where buses currently are parked.
Green recommended the improvements be made to the current career center building.
“It is an old building but it is in better shape than the current GOA building or maintenance building,” he said.
In other finance news, District Finance Director Kevin Robinson
Superintendent recommended $1.71 million for 20134-14 fiscal year. Funding comes from two general obligation bonds, $610,000 of a 2012-2013 gen obligation bond that was not spent; requesting $1.1 million out of 2013-14 bond; part of the overall bond issuance for the career center project. The remaining $2.9 million will be used for expenditures related to construction of the career center. $300,000 will go for technology upgrades to computers and Promethean boards, with $125,000 going to update playground equipment and $100,000 going toward security and camera equipment. $215,000 is set aside for furniture and other capital requests. $110,000 for a new fire alarm system at FCHS and $700,000 for transition cost related to paving the current career center parking lot so it complies with state requirements.
Board member Henry Miller asked if local vendors were being considered for the paving work and was assured they were.
Board member Annie McDaniel was concerned about what she said was vagueness in the expenditure of $300,000 for computer upgrades. Green said that the district could not predict where technology needs may arise, such as if Promethean boards went out at one school and needed replacing. He said the plan is a general recommendation that will be adjusted according to needs. Green said Julie Barfield would write up a report to keep the board informed on technology-related expenditures. The measure passed 7-0.
Green also went into detail explaining low test scores for the district this year and the reasons he believes the ESEA waiver results are a flawed measurement of district performance.
Green also explained a recent issue with mold at FMS and commended Moses Seibles and the maintenance department for the extra work they put in the weekend before school began so all schools in the district would be ready and safe for students on opening day.
“When we speak of excellence through team work, it is that kind of dedication that we encourage as necessary for the district,” Green said.