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Schools set to begin SPLOST IV work

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

With a little over a month left before Clayton County Public Schools' Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax III is scheduled to expire, school system officials are preparing to take the first steps in getting SPLOST IV-funded projects off the ground.

Operations and construction officials are scheduled to hold a pre-qualification meeting with architects and potential general contractors on Dec. 4, to discuss district expectations for four projects included in SPLOST IV, said School District Chief Operations Officer Cephus Jackson.

Those projects are the re-roofing of Fountain Elementary School, and the construction of auxiliary gymnasiums at Forest Park, Jonesboro, and North Clayton high schools, according to the SPLOST Construction Update presented to the Clayton County Board of Education on Nov. 16. The first four projects combined are projected to cost $7.1 million, according to the construction update report.

"I'm advancing some of the money out of SPLOST III to get us started on these projects," Jackson said. "We'd have to get started on the pre-qualification process right away, to begin work on these projects next summer, when we start to receive some of the SPLOST IV money that's been collected in the spring."

In September, just over two percent of Clayton County voters went to the polls, and approved SPLOST IV. The five-year special tax is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010.

The Austell-based Southern A&E, LLC architectural firm will handle the re-roofing of Fountain Elementary School, as well as the designs for the auxiliary gymnasiums at Jonesboro and North Clayton high schools, according to the construction report. The report also shows that the Griffin-based architectural firm of Manley, Spangler and Smith will design the auxiliary gymnasium at Forest Park High School.

Actual construction work on the re-roofing of Fountain Elementary School is scheduled to begin in June 2010, according to the report. That work is expected to be completed by the time students return to school in August of next year, Jackson said. The construction report shows the re-roofing will carry a projected price tag of $350,000.

"When you're using the hot tar that is used to replace a roof, the fumes can sometimes affect children who are allergic to it," Jackson said. "That's why we don't do that when children are around. You never know if a child is going to have an allergic reaction to the tar fumes, so I'd rather be safe than sorry, and do it over the summer."

There is no set line of schools scheduled to receive new roofs after Fountain Elementary School, Jackson said. He said he will sit down with members of his staff after the Thanksgiving holiday to discuss which schools should be a priority.

Fountain Elementary School's roof is considered one of the highest priority projects for the district, Jackson said. "We were patching, and patching that roof, but it's time to replace it. It was leaking all the time, and it's got mold growing in it, and that presents a health hazard to the children."

The SPLOST update report shows construction on Forest Park's auxiliary gymnasium is also scheduled to begin in June 2010. Construction on the auxiliary gymnasiums at Jonesboro and North Clayton is scheduled to begin the following month. It will take approximately eight to nine months to build each gymnasium, Jackson said. Each will cost $2.25 million, according to the construction report.

"There will not be any stands in them, because they will not be used to host games," Jackson said. "They will be for the purpose of holding classes. You will also have two gymnasiums at each school for athletic teams to practice in, allowing equal access to practice facilities for both the girls and boys teams."

Jackson added there is no set plan for which schools will receive auxiliary gymnasiums after the initial three. But, he said the school system will do three at a time, and each set will contain one school from the Riverdale area, one from the southern part of the county, and a third from the northeastern/central area of the county.

"That way, there's no preferential treatment, and no area feels left out," Jackson said.

Another project the school system will move quickly to begin work on is an $18 million replacement facility for Riverdale Elementary School, according to Jackson. It will be built next to Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale. Jackson said preparations for public hearings on that facility will begin after next week's public hearings on the boundary lines for the Eddie J. White K-8 Academy.

The public hearings for the new Riverdale Elementary School will likely take place sometime in January, or February of next year, Jackson said.

The district's chief operations officer also said the new Riverdale Elementary School will be built using one of two pre-existing elementary school designs found at schools in the district. A decision on which design will be used will be made after the public hearings are held next year.

Jackson added that after the public meetings are held, the district will begin the pre-qualification, and bid processes, and a ground-breaking will likely happen sometime around the beginning of 2011.