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Plan calls for closing of Sanville school

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

An architect has recommended closing Sanville Elementary School during the next five years as part of a capital improvement plan for the Henry County Public Schools.

Sanville’s students would be shifted to Carver, Campbell Court and Stanleytown elementary schools under the proposal.

Moseley Architects also suggested building a consolidated school to replace Collinsville Primary and John Redd Smith Elementary and shifting five special-needs classrooms from Stanleytown Elementary to that new school.

Findings and recommendations of the firm’s capital improvements study for the school system were presented Monday during a joint meeting of the county’s school board and board of supervisors.

The architect recommends shifting Sanville’s approximately 300 students to Carver, Campbell Court and Stanleytown elementary schools and vacating Sanville, which is the oldest building in the school division.

Sanville Elementary was built in 1927, with additions or renovations in 1947, 1961 and 1996.

The architect’s report lists these other reasons to close Sanville: “Coupled with the new consolidated Collinsville/John Redd Smith, this would vacate 3 existing schools and reduce the total number of elementary schools from 10 to 8.” It also would vacate 116,280 square feet of old buildings and replace that with 95,000 square feet of new buildings, for a reduction of 21,280 square feet, the report says.

Building a consolidated Collinsville Primary/John Redd Smith school would cost an estimated $15.29 million for new construction, plus nearly $4.3 million in other expenses, for a total estimated cost of $19,584,745, according

to the report. Land acquisition would be extra, Keith Scott, the school division’s supervisor of facilities, said Tuesday.

Shifting five special-needs classrooms from Stanleytown Elementary to the new school, as recommended by the architect, would increase the total estimated project cost to $21,186,587, according to the report.

That proposal would provide new space at the consolidated school to address the needs of these special-needs students, and it would free up space at Stanleytown Elementary so that modular buildings there could be eliminated, according to the report and Scott.

Shifting special-needs classrooms from Stanleytown Elementary to the new school also would increase the student capacity of the new school “to closer align to the target of 750 students for each future elementary school,” the report says.

Without moving the classrooms, the combined enrollment of the consolidated school would be about 650 students, based on current enrollment at John Redd and Collinsville Primary, according to the report.

“Scenario still provides for a total PK-5 capacity countywide of 4,152 students with current enrollment approximately 3,661,” the report states.

The report says that from 2000 to 2012, student enrollment in the county schools “has shown continuous decline.” Total student enrollment decreased from 8,722 students to 7,136, a total decrease of 18.2 percent, the report says. It also projects enrollment for the 2013-2017 period, with declines expected each of those years.

Long range — perhaps 15 to 20 years from now, some school division officials said — the architect suggests potential consolidation of Campbell Court and Stanleytown elementary schools, Sanville and Carver elementary schools (if Sanville had not closed), Mt. Olivet and Axton elementary schools and Rich Acres and Drewry Mason elementary schools. That would reduce the number of elementary schools in the division to five.

Scott said they are possible groupings of schools, and if a school were closed before then, school officials might have to take another look at the geography and groupings of schools.

The architect recommends the system’s capital improvement plan focus on elementary schools, rather than middle or high schools. “Generally speaking your elementary schools are the oldest buildings (in the division),” the report says. “Some of your elementary schools are at capacity while others have additional capacity....”

In an interview Tuesday, schools Superintendent Jared Cotton said that initially, “I was taken aback” at the number of recommended closures long range. “When I looked at it again, if your enrollment is continuing to decline, you have to consider 15-20 years” from now, he said.

One of the worst things that can happen is to spend money renovating a school and later have to close it, he said. “I certainly hope it (the closures) won’t happen. I don’t want to close schools.”

There’s always a possibility enrollment could increase, Cotton added.

As for the architect’s short-term recommendation to close Sanville, Cotton said Sanville is the oldest school building, it needs extensive renovations and has modular buildings, but it is a successful school and a strong community.

“You never want to recommend closing a school at any time,” Cotton said. “You have to consider the architect’s recommendation. You have to consider all options and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. You need to look at future short-term and long-term (needs and costs), and operating costs. It’s more expensive to operate small schools.”

Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said officials are investigating how a new, consolidated Collinsville Primary-John Redd Smith school could be paid for and have not yet determined the best option. Funding could involve borrowing a significant amount of money and using money from the county fund balance, he said.


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