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School construction plans are presented

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Plans to consolidate John Redd Smith Elementary and Collinsville Primary schools under one roof were presented Monday during a joint meeting of the Henry County Board of Supervisors and the Henry County School Board.

Jim McCalla, K-12 team leader with Moseley Architects’ Richmond office, proposed building a new K-5 school to replace the two older schools, which neighbor each other, and constructing it on the same plot of land. He estimated the cost at roughly $15.29 million.

That price did not include an estimated $4.3 million in inspections, furniture, technology and other expenditures necessary before the school could be opened to students, McCalla said. It also did not include the cost of demolishing the two existing schools, which would add an additional $200,000 to $300,000 to the estimate.

McCalla also offered a proposal to replace John Redd Smith Elementary with a 50,000-square-foot building and renovate Collinsville Primary. The cost of that project, he estimated, would be roughly $12.34 million, or 81 percent of the cost of construction of the new, $15.29 million building.

According to McCalla, the average “useful lifespan” of a school building is about 50 years. John Redd Smith, which houses 296 students in third through fifth grades, is 61 years old. Collinsville Primary, which houses 350 students in pre-K through second grade, is 45 years old.

Each school needs more than $500,000 in repairs, he said.

According to McCalla, complete renovations of both John Redd Smith and Collinsville Primary would approach 75 percent of the cost of constructing a new building. Generally speaking, he said, when renovation costs approach 75 percent of new construction costs, the rule of thumb is to consider building a new structure.

Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton said that after years of “putting Band-Aids” on the various issues at the elementary school, “I can’t in good conscience put a lot of money into John Redd.”

Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant suggested examining other potential locations for the proposed combined school. School board member Curtis Millner of the Iriswood District said that when discussion of consolidation arose in 2005, “it was difficult to find that much level, usable land in the district. No one was willing to sell at that time.”

However, he added that it is possible the situation has changed since then.

County Administrator Tim Hall proposed that the supervisors further discuss the issue at their annual planning session in February. Topics to be discussed include potential locations for the new school, how to fund construction of the new school and the fate of the two existing school buildings.

Before the February meeting, Cotton said, he will compile for the supervisors a list of potential construction sites in the Collinsville District. He said he also will investigate the real estate value of John Redd Smith Elementary and Collinsville Primary.

Collinsville District school board member Merris Stambaugh said that based upon the evidence, spending more money to maintain John Redd Smith and Collinsville Primary is no longer an option.

“The status quo is not sustainable,” Stambaugh said. “Something has to be done.”

According to McCalla, John Redd Smith has a number of issues that need to be addressed, including original and inefficient windows from 1952; a roof that needs to be replaced; outdated and inefficient heating systems; reliance on window air-conditioning units during warmer months; an underground steam leak in both the upper annex and cafeteria that affects the heating system; multiple levels that provide difficulty for handicapped access; a location that causes traffic back-up; outdated lighting; inadequate faculty facilities; and a kitchen floor and original steam pipes in need of replacement.

In addition to the plan for consolidating John Redd and Collinsville Primary, McCalla offered a facility condition assessment for all Henry County schools. He said the elementary schools are in need of more attention than the county’s middle and high schools, as the elementary school buildings are among the oldest and least-recently renovated.

 

 
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