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May 7, 2008

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PO Box 908
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Jefferson, Georgia 30549


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School Board, Architects Set Date To Answer Citizens’ Group’s CHS Concerns
Next Wednesday, May 14, In The Commerce Middle School Cafeteria
The Commerce Board of Education will meet next Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at Commerce Middle School to discuss its plans for a new Commerce High School.
The meeting will be in the school cafeteria, said Superintendent James E. “Mac” McCoy.
The plan is to meet with the members of PEACE (Parents Excited About Commerce Education), the group formed to challenge the school design proposed by Ross, Lane and Associates.
“We’ve been looking at the concerns they gave us, and we hope to be able to address those concerns,” said McCoy.
There has been no further work on the design for a month, after the school board told the architects to stop pending a review of the group’s issues.
The presentation by the architectural firm did not go over well with citizens, approximately 85 of whom turned out for their first view of the new CHS.
Initial concerns focused on the fact that the construction plan could leave the high school without a gym for at least one full year, possibly two. As parents looked over the plan, they began finding fault with everything from the parking lot (which takes up part of the practice field) to the layout of the academic building (one-story instead of two-story), the lack of “green” technology, elevation challenges, furnishings and equipment, lighting, the placement of the proposed track at the middle school, the size of the performing arts center and the method of financing the project. They also blasted the school board for not seeking public participation in the design process.
Commerce voters approved a $20 million bond issue last year. McCoy said he’s working on the hypothesis that the school can be built for $18 million or less, with the rest being used for the track and for furnishings.
The architects’ plan calls for a 125,600-square-foot facility designed for 650 students, with common areas to support 1,000.
Their proposal is to have two main entrances, one at the location of the current front driveway, and the other in the vicinity of the tennis courts, which will be removed.
The project would encroach on the current practice field, but a new field would be built behind the school. It also includes a new concession stand and restrooms for the football stadium.
The east wing of the school would be retained and rehabbed for administrative persons, while the south wing would be remodeled and its seven classrooms retained. Thirty-seven new classrooms would be constructed, along with a performing arts center that seats 480.
PEACE argues that with a two-story main building, the system could build more and pay less. It has even offered a rendering of how the facility could be laid out.
As for the gym, the school board is considering building a second gymnasium - a metal building - that would be ready for occupancy next fall. Once the school is completed, the plan is to put a veneer on the gym so it will look similar to the rest of the buildings.


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