MOULTRIEGa. — Renovation and demolition of Willie J. Williams Middle School and CA Gray Middle School could begin in the next five years if voters approve Colquitt County School Districts’ upcoming ESPLOST.
“Since the fall of the school year ’21-22, the Board of Education has been working closely with Altman + Barrett Architects to look at options for addressing school building age and size with respect to enrollment. A full facility review was conducted. Architectural engineers and members of the BOE evaluate building age, infrastructure needs, growth or decline in registrations, and other problems with maintenance and use of facilities,” said the district’s chief communications officer, Angela Hobby, via email Tuesday.
The facility project will be funded by the forthcoming ESPLOST fund – Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – fund. The district’s current ESPLOST funds will expire in September 2023, while the new plan (if approved by the electorate) will take effect from 2023 to 2028.
Altman + Barrett Architects proposed in February 2022 to move CA Gray Junior High School across the street from Colquitt County High School or demolish part of it and construct a new building at its current location, The Observer previously reported.
Other proposals at the time included the demolition and other minor renovations at Willie J. Williams High School and the complete replacement of Norman Park Elementary School.
During an April 2022 BoE meeting, Superintendent Ben Wiggins announced to the board that construction at Charlie A. Gray Middle School was ineligible for total state funding. The state provides funds for renovations and new buildings or schools based on a formula that includes the number of learning units (classrooms) available and the age of the building.
Hobby says CA Gray has several buildings built in the early 2000s so they are not eligible for any funding to replace at this time. They will not qualify for the state development fund for several years.
CCSD later issued a statement saying, “For this reason, (BoE) will move on to the next identified priority in the facility review process and work on a plan to address areas of current need.”
The architects have since presented the different options being considered by the board. Options were also discussed with staff and faculty, parents and the community.
There are several community meetings, online feedback opportunities for presentations, and several presentations at BOE meetings throughout the year.
“After about a year of evaluating options, the council has decided on a plan to move CA Gray’s oldest buildings, six of which were built in 1959; removed the old wing at WJ Williams built in 1962, and replaced it with a new wing consisting of 16 classrooms; and to expand the cafeteria at Willie J. Williams to accommodate enrollment at the school. New paved parking areas will also be added, allowing traffic between schools to move away from the main road, and adding parking for events at the stadium and Art Center,” explained Hobby.
The Board has also decided that ninth graders will be better served in grades 9-12 at Colquitt County High School while eighth graders continue to be served on the campus of CA Gray Middle School’s existing facilities, to henceforth be identified in local facility plans as CA Gray. 8th Grade Academy or such other name may be voted on by the Colquitt County Board of Education, according to documents presented during the board’s December meeting.
CCSD held its first public hearing on the plan during its December meeting. Nothing came forward to be heard. The second public hearing will be held at the next scheduled BoE meeting on Monday, January 30. Work sessions start at 17:30 followed by regular sessions at 18:30
The project will start based on an ESPLOST vote, but the district hopes to get it started sometime between late fall 2023 and summer 2024.
The district is currently focusing on six primary schools that have been approved for a capital expenditure renovation project. Those projects are now in the bidding stage and will start this summer.
Going forward, once the project at Williams and Gray is complete, CCSD will focus on K-5 schools, as there were several campuses with 79 classrooms built between 1956 and 1964, the school system says.
A full list of priority facilities that will use the 2023-2028 EPLOST funds, if approved, is available on the district website, including project size, scope, and estimated cost.
The CCSD website also lists capital expenditure projects for HVAC, paint, and flooring for six elementary schools. The projects qualify for partial funding assistance from the Georgia Department of Education and will be completed over a five-year period.