The Barrow County Board of Education is expected to approve a pair of design services contracts for a future elementary school and the eventual second phase of Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy (BASA) at its Tuesday, April 14 meeting.
The elementary school would eventually be built at the school system’s Austin Road property near BASA as part of a master-planned complex that would eventually include the high school, the elementary school and a middle school. It would be similar to the Winder Elementary-Russell Middle-Winder-Barrow High and Yargo Elementary-Haymon-Morris Middle-Apalachee High set-ups, Joe Perno, assistant superintendent for system operations, told the board at its March 31 work session. The meeting was held via teleconference due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Perno said there are no plans in the immediate future to begin constructing an elementary school or the second phase of the high school but the system wants to be ready when the time comes and population growth opens up the funding for the system to build the new facilities. The design process would take 10-12 months, he said.
Construction is wrapping up on the first phase of the Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy, which is scheduled to open in August, and additions to Westside Middle School are planned for this summer, so that makes a new elementary school the district’s next aim, Perno said.
However, state funding for a new elementary school is currently not available because there is not yet a state-designated need for more elementary classrooms in the county, Perno said. He added that the district is expecting see a drop in ESPLOST — education special-purpose local-option sales tax — receipts due to the current pandemic.
“We also have to weigh out the need to renovate existing buildings and modernize existing equipment, compared with our need for and ability to fund new classrooms,” Perno wrote in an email. “With all of these moving parts and pieces, this is why we really want to focus on design. We know we are going to need these facilities; it’s just a matter of when we can afford them.
“So, we might as well get that design and master-planning piece going.”
Cunningham Forehand Matthews and Moore (CFMM) is the recommended company to perform the services, and the board placed the recommendation on its consent agenda for next week’s meeting. The company has worked on several projects for the district and is already assigned to the BASA project and Austin Road property master-planning efforts, along with a handful of renovation projects the district has slated for this summer. It has consistently received “exemplary” marks, Perno said.
CFMM will receive 5 percent of the eventual construction cost for both projects from SPLOST funds, Perno said, adding that money would be distributed “in line with the progress of the design and construction so they never bill ahead for something they have not provided.”
CONSTRUCTION BOND SALE DELAYED
Also during its March 31 meeting, the board heard from Jennifer Houston, assistant superintendent for business services, that the sale of $44 million in construction bonds slated for April would be delayed some due to the ongoing pandemic and its effect on the economy.
The money would go toward a variety of future projects, including a portion of BASA. The board approved the sale last month.
Tom Owens from Raymond and James told the board in February it could expect an interest rate of 1.8 percent for the bonds and that the district would have debt service payments through 2037. The debt service payments would be as high as $9.6 million for fiscal years 2023 to 2027 and then about $8 million per year after that.
The bond sale is also expected to include a refinancing of 2014 bonds that have about seven years of payment left to be retired.
Houston said Owens had advised holding off on the sale for now due to market conditions. BOE chair Lynn Stevens added the district needs the sale signed off on in Barrow County Superior Court, which is currently operating under an emergency order as a result of the pandemic and not open to that kind of business.
Other items the board has placed on its April 14 consent agenda for approval include:
•purchasing data cabling to support audio enhancements installations for $109,555 from TechOptics of Winder. The technology will be installed at the district’s alternative school, Bear Creek Middle, Haymon-Morris Middle, Russell Middle, Sims Academy and Winder-Barrow High. Upgrades at Statham Elementary and Apalachee High will be handled under a different request for proposals. TechOptics was the second lowest bidder of six, but superintendent Chris McMichael said timing of the installations was a key factor.
•awarding a property liability insurance bid to the Georgia School Board Association in the amount of $387,355 and a workers’ compensation insurance bid to J. Smith Lanier in the amount of $540,605. That money will come out of the Fiscal Year 2021 General Fund.
•the purchase of $59,070 in furniture for the media center, cafeteria and “collaborative area” at BASA and an additional $15,000 for furnishing replacements in the atrium at Sims Academy.
•the purchase of a start-up media collection at BASA for $58,962. The collection more than 4,000 titles.
•approval of an updated bid by Sheffield School Supply in the amount of $38,737 for 1,545 new student chairs at Statham Elementary and authorizing up to $50,000 from the General Fund for future growth and replacement.