Work on the new high school planned for the property next to Sims Academy should start this fall with grading. Construction is expected to begin in the winter.

Joe Perno, the Barrow County School System’s assistant superintendent for system operations, outlined that schedule last week.

The school system expects to spend about $7 million on the first phase of the school.

That will pay for the construction of a student services building, which will include a cafeteria, physical education gym, media center and specialty rooms, such as for art and drama, and a classroom building with 29 rooms.

Perno is clear that the remainder of the school will have to be built over time and will have to be paid for with a new SPLOST – special purpose local option sales tax – referendum in 2021.

The school district has hired an architectural firm, civil engineer and construction manager to work on the master plan and on the high school for the site.

Cunningham Forehand Matthews and Moore is the architect and gets a fee of 5 percent of the construction costs; Breedlove Land Planning is the civil engineer and will get a fee of 3.5 percent of the costs. Both were hired in December.

Bowen & Watson is the construction manager at risk. It will get up to $1.3 million for its fee.

All three of the firms have worked on multiple Barrow County school projects.

The school is expected to be an arts and sciences magnet school. It will complement the science, technology, engineering and math program at Sims. He said the “overarching goal” is to focus on the arts in the building.

The initial plans will connect the new school with Sims through an awning-covered walk to the student services building.

Sims curriculum also will be revamped and classes are expected to accommodate more students than in the past.

The first phase of the building is expected to be complete and ready for school in the summer of 2020, Perno said.

Perno said the first phase of the school is planned for 500 to 600 students. Sims Academy also will accommodate about that number.

“We’re trying to build a building that’s pretty flexible,” Perno said.

The “campus” on Austin Road will have about 1,000 high school students, Perno said. The district’s two high schools, Winder-Barrow and Apalachee, have slightly more than 2,000 and about 1,800 students now, respectively.

“What we’re really trying to create out there is a campus,” Perno said. The property is large enough to eventually accommodate high, middle and elementary schools, he explained.

He said the planners are talking about that “eventual” road. Will it occur, he asked rhetorically, and shrugged.

Perno explained the district will get some of the construction money from the state. That is based on a formula for what the state says a district needs

As an example, he said, the state says Barrow County qualifies for 19 new classrooms.

“We’re at that right now,” Perno said. “It’s in focus for us right now. We’re dealing with it. We’re living it.”

The district also is planning renovations at Yargo Elementary and Westside Middle schools. Those plans will go on this year, but construction is expected next summer – when the next budget year begins.

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