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Several school facilities getting upgrades

Although they are often overshadowed by personnel changes and pressing student-performance issues during school board meetings, there are several structural changes and upgrades to district schools and facilities, either under way, or soon to be under way.

Cephus Jackson, chief of operations for the Clayton County School System, said plans are already in the works to renovate Forest Park High School, Jonesboro High School, North Clayton High School, the Performing Arts Center (PAC) –– and a new facility is being built to replace the current Riverdale Elementary School.

During his presentation to school board members at Monday night’s board of education meeting, he updated them on the renovations/upgrades that have already begun, or are in the design process.

He mentioned Forest Park High School first, saying that upgrades there will include putting in a new air conditioning unit in the gymnasium, and expanding the school’s foyer. “Architects have already begun to work on the plans,” he said. “We will break ground in the summer of 2012.”

He added that North Clayton High and Jonesboro High will get similar upgrades. “What we’re going to do with all three high schools is put in auxiliary gyms,” said Jackson, “and we want to put the 21st Century classrooms in them.”

During his presentation to the board, he requested that board members approve the consolidation of the 3 bids for the construction work on the high schools, into one contract. Jackson said he hopes the board will vote to approve that contract at its Oct. 3 meeting.

The biggest expense on the table for the district, right now –– as far as school construction projects are concerned –– he said, is the new elementary school building being built for Riverdale Elementary. The new school will cost the district an estimated $17 million, he said. It is located off Garden Walk Boulevard.

He said work on the project is moving swiftly. “We [already] have the walls up and more brick work is being done,” said Jackson. The facility is expected to be completed by the fall of next year.

The work on the Performing Arts Center (PAC) will be finished earlier than anticipated, he said. During the July board meeting, the completion date for the upgrades to the PAC was estimated to be the spring of 2012. However; Jackson said, the PAC will re-open as early as February of 2012.

Charles White, who was, at the time, the spokesperson for the school district, said earlier that the interior work for the PAC included: Small additions at the front of the existing lobby area, on each side of the entry; additional office space and upgrades to existing space; the refurbishing of existing restrooms and the backstage area, with new fixtures and finishes; the replacement of the orchestra pit, stage curtains, stage lights, and sound system; the addition of ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) accessible toilets in pubic areas, to bring those restrooms up to code; and the replacement of the 20-year-old, air-handling unit.

Exterior changes, White said previously, "will include, but are not limited to, re-roofing of the facility, and replacement of the existing storefront, and entry-door system, including ADA automatic door openers."

Jackson is expected make a full presentation on all of the construction updates at the school board’s next meeting.