While beginning to explore ideas for building one additional school and repurposing others, the Bulloch County Board of Education recently approved the purchase of five moveable, temporary classrooms for three schools for almost $550,000.
These “mobile units” include two to be placed on the Southeast Bulloch Middle School campus “due to growth and anticipating an increasing need,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Troy Brown stated in a March 4 memo.
Additionally, one new mobile classroom was to be placed at Brooklet Elementary School, originally in anticipation of a new prekindergarten class. The other two units were going to Langston Chapel Elementary School to replace dilapidated, older temporary classrooms there.
Brown did not obtain new bids. Instead, the total cost of the five new mobile units, $548,859, was based on the price Bulloch County Schools obtained from Modular Solutions for a previous purchase of four units back in March 2020. At that time, Modular Solutions offered the lowest price among seven vendors that bid.
“We believe that if we were to bid the units again, we would receive less favorable bids due to the increase in construction materials and other costs,” Brown stated in the memo.
During its March 11, 2021, meeting, the board unanimously approved the purchase of the five temporary classroom units from Modular Solutions. The price per unit, also including installation, skirting, decking and other hardware, plus a 5% contingency, was $109,771.80, the same as for each of the four units bought a year earlier.
The mobile units purchased last March were also for Brooklet Elementary School and Langston Chapel Elementary School.
With the one added unit, Brooklet Elementary will have four of the temporary classrooms next school year, Brown said. Langston Chapel Elementary, which has long used some temporary classrooms, will still have four after two are replaced.
But the two mobile units now going to Southeast Bulloch Middle School will be the first on that campus.
New SEB plan
At the board’s work session Thursday, Superintendent Charles Wilson proposed in greater detail what he sees as the fastest way to expand school capacity for population growth in the south end of the county.
His tentative central proposal, potentially costing $50 million to $60 million, is to build a new, larger Southeast Bulloch High School.
The existing high school could then be repurposed as Southeast Bulloch Middle School and the existing middle school as an “upper elementary” school.
As explained Thursday, this “Southeast Bulloch Upper Elementary” would receive all the fourth- and fifth-grade students from throughout the southeastern part of the county.
The existing Brooklet, Nevils and Stilson elementary schools would keep just kindergarten through third grade, plus prekindergarten where it is funded.
More about a suggested three-year timeline for building and opening the school and other details from Thursday’s discussion will be reported next week.
At the previous meeting, Wilson had introduced the idea of a new Southeast Bulloch High School after summarizing general recommendations of the School Capacity Balancing Committee.
The capacity balancing committee, appointed by the board but made up of other community members, had met 10 times in the previous 14 months. The committee recommended that school attendance zones should be redrawn “in conjunction with” new schools or additions to be built, according to Wilson’s summary. He agreed with this, interpreting it to mean that building plans should made and carried out before attendance zones are redrawn.
So some temporary measures, such as the use of modular classrooms, would have to continue while a new high school site is determined, the school is planned and built and others are repurposed.
SEBMS athletic fields
If SEB Middle School moves to the current SEB High School, the middle school would inherit the high school’s current athletic facilities.
So, Wilson’s concept also prompted board members to ask what will happen to the previously drawn and then partially redesigned plans to build complexes of athletic fields at three middle schools: Langston Chapel Middle, Southeast Bulloch Middle and William James Middle.
“It probably makes sense to hold off on doing anything with Southeast Middle athletic facilities, not that I like saying that. I’m just trying to be honest and practical in this conversation,” Wilson said during the March 11 meeting.
Old units ‘surplus’
During Thursday’s meeting, the board voted to declare the two old mobile classroom units being replaced at Langston Chapel Elementary School “surplus” so that they can be sold or scrapped.
Since Brown’s original memo explaining the purpose of each of the new mobile units, school system staff members learned that the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning has not awarded Brooklet Elementary School an additional prekindergarten class for next year. Prekindergarten is a lottery-funded program, not guaranteed to all children, and schools and other host sites are approved for a limited number of seats.
“We’re still going to move the mobile unit there as an anticipation that that could happen the next year or in the future, and we’ll have something for potential growth there,” Brown said after Thursday’s meeting.