School construction doesn't stop

By Trina Trice

School renovations and constructions continue, despite the school system being behind on collections of SPLOST funds.

The school system is nearly $14 million dollars behind on collecting funds from the 1999 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, said John Ramage, assistant superintendent of Facilities and Maintenance.

SPLOST is funding most of the maintenance and construction work.

The school system collects, on average, $3.9 million a month. At that rate, the school will be behind $33 million on its collection at the end of the five-year SPLOST, scheduled some time next year.

"We were expecting to collect $269 million over a five-year period," Ramage said. "The recession has been a two-edged sword. We're behind on collections, but construction bids have been lower than usual."

Projects that are still under way include preparing Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, which cost approximately $7.8 million, and James Jackson Elementary School, which cost $8.3 million, for opening in time for this fall.

Maintenance crews are moving furniture and equipment into the two schools.

Renovations and other maintenance work will be performed on Tara Stadium's turf, which disrupted graduation ceremonies this year. Graduation ceremonies were moved to Twelve Oaks Stadium.

"The turf had not been renovated since it opened in 1968," Ramage said. "We needed to remove 12 to 18 inches of topsoil to bring back the right mixture of sand and clay ? and replace the sprinkler system."

The Tara Stadium project cost more than $80,000, an amount that had already been budgeted, Ramage said.

Renovations and modifications at Oliver Elementary School and Hendrix Drive Elementary began shortly after the school system finalized rezoning for Martin Luther King Jr. and James Jackson elementary schools.

Oliver and Hendrix Drive elementary schools are getting new lighting fixtures, ceilings, floors, heating and air conditioning equipment, fire alarms, intercom systems and landscaping.

Hendrix Drive Elementary School is also getting three additional classrooms n each one for art, music and general purpose use.

Oliver Elementary School's renovations could make room for a Space Center, if the school gets its wish to transform itself into a math- and science-theme school, said Principal Ron Boykins.

The Space Center would be part of a science laboratory that would encourage science study through space-related math and science activities.

Boykins and his staff are currently working on their theme school proposal.

Construction has already begun on three new schools n two elementary schools and one middle school n that are scheduled to open in the fall of 2004.

Clayton County School System currently has eight high schools, 12 middle schools and 31 elementary schools.