The Jackson County Board of Education approved the preliminary steps toward building a new elementary school on the west side of the county near the new high school during its meeting on May 10.
The BOE approved modifying an existing school design for the facility.
"Southern A&E was hired to design a middle school on Hwy. 53 in 2017," read a report about the proposal. "After completing the design, there was a shift in priorities and that project was placed on hold. We would like to use that design for a new elementary school on Skelton Road."
The board had previously discussed designing the school to be flexible such that it could be used for either a middle school or an elementary school.
In addition to approving A&E as designers of the new school, the board also approved using the construction manager at-risk system for building the facility.
The Georgia Department of Education requires school system to outline what kind of construction system will be used to build new facilities.
BOE chairman Don Clerici said the system may have to "do some things we've not done before" in buying and securing supplies for the project. A shortage of building materials has driven up construction prices and the county may have to pre-purchase some materials to avoid rapid price hikes during construction.
The construction of the new elementary school comes as the system is seeing a large amount of growth in student numbers. Just about all of that growth is on the county's west side.
Since the end of the last school year, the system has added 360 students through April, a growth of 4.3%. The system now has 8,717 students and will likely break the 9,000 mark next year.
Most of the system's schools on the east side of the county have lost students during the year, or remained stagnate. However, on the west side the growth has exploded.
West Jackson Middle Schools, for example, has gone from 1,146 students at the end of last year to 1,261 this year. Jackson County Comprehensive High School has grown from 1,294 to 1,465 students over the same period.
In other business, the BOE approved:
• hiring Primero Staffing to provide custodians for the new high school. System leaders say it's been difficult to hire custodial staff during the pandemic. "During the past year, our efforts to hire custodians has been strained, due to the pandemic and the present situation with stimulus funding, getting applicants for many positions has been extremely difficult," system leaders said in a report to the board. "Primero Staffing is able to offer a larger pool of candidates and process them quickly, as they are able to complete background checks, get the candidate hired, trained and in our schools in a timely manner that is most effective for our schools."
• an updated salary schedule for some non-teaching positions.
• created the positions of HVAC foreman, HVAC supervisor, maintenance supervisor, and project manager.
• approved the system's teacher pay scales with local supplements that range from 8% to 9.3%.