Upland Design Group of Crossville, an architectural firm, has been hired by the Board of Education to conduct a county-wide facilities study in planning for future building needs.
The action was taken during Thursday night’s monthly meeting. The board will pay Upland Design $19,500 for its services.
“We want them to give us a survey and preliminary report along with a number of options that we can look at for a long range plan for our school system which consists of new facilities, new structures because we have at least one (Smithville Elementary School) that is so far outdated. Hopefully we can turn this long range plan into more of a short range plan but we want the county commission involved. This is not just our decision,” said Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III.
“Not only will they be looking at the growth of the county but they are going to be looking at the facilities and the availability of the classrooms we have currently versus what we could add,” said Director of Schools Patrick Cripps.
A building program for the school system has been under consideration for several months. In this year’s budget, the board set aside $20,000 specifically for the facilities study hoping to advance the agenda.
One of the major concerns is at Smithville Elementary School, the oldest existing school building in the system, which has been expanded several times over the years. Before the addition of Northside Elementary School, which was built for students in grades 3-5, SES served kindergarten through 4th graders. Today, almost 600 students in pre-K through 2nd grade attend Smithville Elementary. Many would like to see the school closed and replaced with a new facility.
In March, 2016 Director Cripps and members of the school board met with the county commission’s education committee to share ideas.
"We're growing. We know Smithville Elementary School is overcrowded. It is the oldest school in the system. We're looking to improve facilities. What I would like to see within the next few years is for us to be able to start the building process. Getting a school added to our district. I am not saying what we want right now because I think it's got to be a joint process involving the community because we can't do it alone,” said Director Cripps at that March, 2016 meeting.
Anita Puckett, Assistant Principal at Smithville Elementary School and a Fifth District County Commissioner said at that time she preferred building a new Pre-K through 5 school and also converting SES and Northside into Pre-K through 5 schools . According to Puckett, DeKalb County needs to be prepared for an influx of new students if the state should fund mandatory pre-kindergarten in the years ahead.
Seventh District County Commissioner Larry Summers, who was also at that March, 2016 meeting said he would like to see a new Pre-K through 8th grade school built and for Northside to be expanded to Pre-K through 8th. This would give the county three Pre-K through 8th grade schools including DeKalb West School and Smithville Elementary School could be closed.
Director Cripps added that infrastructure needs at the high school would also eventually have to be addressed. "We're going to have to look at that (high school) on down the road. It was built for 400 people. If you come in the hallways (between classes) now you had better be going the same direction the kids are going or you're going to get trampled,” said Director Cripps at the March, 2016 meeting.
Upland Design is expected to have its recommendation in the hands of the Board of Education within twelve weeks after which the Board will begin meetings with school administrators and the county commission hoping to move forward.
Should there be a recommendation for one or more new school buildings, the Board of Education and County Commission would have to decide whether to build them and where, which could create a need to purchase property for a suitable site. The school system still has several acres which could be used for expansion at Northside Elementary.
In other business, the board has re-elected Evins as Chairman for another year. Doug Stephens was returned as Vice Chairman, and Shaun Tubbs was again named as Assistant Secretary (TLN representative). All members present voted in favor except Jerry Wayne Johnson who passed. Kate Miller was absent.
The board granted tenure to DCHS teacher Marilyn Roberts.
Director Cripps gave the following monthly report on personnel:
Sarah Hoover, Teacher at Northside Elementary School, fulfilling leave of absence
Sarah Jacobs, Teacher at DeKalb Middle School, replaces Debra Moore
Alexandra Winkel, Teacher at Northside Elementary School, replaces Travis Little
Leave of Absence:
Karen Jacobs, granted leave as requested
Tiffany Wheatley, granted leave as requested
Jennifer Judkins, granted leave as requested
Travis Little, resigned as Teacher at Northside Elementary
Debra Moore, resigned as Teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Suzanne Caldwell, resigned as Custodian at DeKalb Middle School.
Teachers who have health insurance through the school system offered by the state will be soon be paying higher premiums. The board of education voted to approve the seven percent hike as mandated by the state.