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No new schools, but state to fund renovations
Stilson roof, 2 HVAC systems qualify; sports facilities locally funded
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The current five-year inventory of Bulloch County public school facilities does not qualify the district for any new schools. But local officials are ready to apply for $900,000 from the state to put a new roof on Stilson Elementary School and replace heating and air-conditioning systems at two schools.

The Stilson roof will be one of the most expensive among 12 projects, predicted to cost $2.5 million, that the Board of Education agreed earlier this year to pursue from a list of school facilities needs identified by a countywide committee. Advertising for bids is slated to begin today for sports facilities for Portal Middle High School and Statesboro High School, as well as a security wall at Nevils Elementary School.

Paul Webb, Bulloch County Schools chief operations officer, reported to the board during its meeting Thursday evening at Portal Middle High. The inventory submitted to the state Department of Education, he noted, includes the ages of buildings and how many students use them.

"Bulloch County Schools' population increase or the age of structures does not qualify us for new construction currently but does qualify us for some renovation money," Webb said. "The application for funds is what's being placed on the table tonight."

The state will pay 81 percent of the cost of replacing a school's roof every 20 years and 81 percent of the cost of a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system every 10 years, he explained. Stilson Elementary School is now the only school with a roof that qualifies. Both Stilson's HVAC system and the HVAC system on the older wing at Nevils Elementary School also qualify, Webb said.

The combined, estimated cost of these projects is $1.11 million. With the state paying 81 percent, the local, 19 percent share would be about $211,000.

"You're basically getting $1.1 million worth of work for $211,000," Webb said.

The school system needs to submit an application to the Georgia Department of Education by Nov. 1. The GDOE in turn will confirm districts' requests by Dec. 1 for inclusion in a funding request to the Legislature in the 2016 session, Webb said.

Once the state funding is approved, work could begin around June 1, he said.

Leaks in Stilson Elementary's roof have been a problem for several years, Webb acknowledged in an interview. When the 35-member facilities committee visited all the schools last winter and assigned points to projects, the roof emerged eighth on the overall list of 37 prioritized requests.

The board agreed in March to fund the top 12 projects. The possibility of state funding for the roof was noted at the time, but other projects, such as improved sports facilities, are being funded locally from the school system's Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Some projects have already been done. Project 12, a fence for the Langston Chapel Elementary School playground, was completed in early August.

Portal athletics

Georgia Department of Education approval was received Thursday for plans for Portal Middle High School to get a new fieldhouse, as well as restroom and concession stand improvements at its football and baseball fields, Webb said. These were Projects 1, 2 and 3 on the committee's list. Plans were also approved for making the PMHS football stadium disabilities accessible, which was Project 10.

Along with these, the advertisements slated to begin today were to seek contractors' bids for a wall to secure the passage between two wings at Nevils Elementary School and for dressing rooms and batting cages at Mill Creek Regional Park for the Statesboro High School softball and baseball teams.

The Nevils wall will block access between the school and Nevils-Groveland Road. A gated fence was previously added, but the state fire inspector would not allow it to be locked, Webb said. The wall will have a fire door with an alarm.

Department of Education approval was not required for the dressing rooms and batting cages at Mill Creek Park because these are not on school property, Webb said. Statesboro High uses the fields there under an agreement with the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department.

Of these projects, the Portal fieldhouse alone was estimated, earlier this year, to cost a little more than $500,000.

Remaining projects

Other than the Stilson roof, the only projects remaining from the top 12 will then be improvements to physical education and athletic areas at Southeast Bulloch Middle School, William James Middle School and Langston Chapel Middle School.

"We're in the planning process of those and hope to bring something to you, maybe the first of November," Webb told the board.

The board was not asked to vote Thursday on the application for state funding. But members unanimously agreed to "place it on the table" for approval at the next regular meeting, Oct. 15 at the board office. The board usually meets twice each month, and Thursday's was the latest of several second-monthly meetings held in rotation at the three high schools this year. Most policy and purchasing proposals are not put to a final vote at these meetings.

Proposed purchases of eight school buses and an automated system for scheduling substitute teachers are also "on the table" for Oct. 15.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

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