Guilford school board looks at 4 key building projects

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Feb. 13, 2008

GUILFORD — The Board of Education this week discussed four building projects that could go before voters for funding at the April referendum.

The proposed work includes a new roof at A.W. Cox Elementary School, new wells at Melissa Jones School, a reconfigured parking lot at Abraham Baldwin Middle School and a new ventilation system at Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School. The four projects could cost more than $6.25 million.

Board Chairman Bill Bloss said Tuesday the board discussed all of the options at its regular meeting on Monday, but did not take any action. He added the board has some serious concerns about proposing work on Adams Middle School at a time when the district is considering major construction to renovate the school overall.

“I think there is a real concern that it’s neither cost-effective nor practical to do serial work in the old Adams building,” Bloss said.

A facilities task force is currently meeting to review the options for renovating or replacing the middle school and Guilford High School. The original section of Adams was built in 1937 and has no central ventilation system, Bloss said.

“It’s not that the ventilation in that part of the building is inadequate, it’s that there is no ventilation in that part of the building at all,” he said. “It wasn’t designed that way, so the heating system is inefficient … (and) we also think that air quality at Adams is going to be something that needs serious attention.”

Bloss said the district’s “very preliminary numbers” put the cost of the ventilation work at $3.5 million, not including the price for portable classrooms some students would have to use during construction.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said Tuesday the Board of Education will have to coordinate with the facilities task force before deciding whether to go ahead with repairs in the short term.

“Without knowing what the board is going to recommend in terms of any possible referendum or a major project at Adams, we don’t want to redo work that we might spend money on in a bond,” Forcella said.

The other projects, Forcella said, are fairly pressing. The roof leaks at A.W. Cox, and Bloss said the district is looking into obtaining remuneration from the manufacturer of the 14-year-old roof shingles that were supposed to last for 30 years.

“We don’t have much of a choice,” Bloss said. “We can’t wait for the litigation process to wind down before we fix the roof — we have to fix the roof and then in the meantime investigate and move forward with claims against the manufacturer.”

The price for the new roof is about $2.5 million, he said, but replacing two aging wells at Melissa Jones School is estimated at $50,000. The work at Baldwin middle school, which is aimed at improving traffic and safety, has a price tag of $205,000.

“These are not frills by any means, and these are the types of bond issues that really are just minimal safe operating requirements,” Bloss said. “These types of bonds have passed by overwhelming margins in recent years.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, the Board of Education approved a preliminary schedule for the 2008-09 school year that would create six early dismissal days throughout the year for professional development. The district recently implemented a new program using “professional learning communities,” where teachers meet in teams to work on raising student achievement.

“We have been told over and over and over that we need greater opportunities for collaboration and for professional development, so we’re trying to find time to do it,” Bloss said. “The only other way you can really do it is increase staff time beyond what’s already in the contract, and that would obviously have some potential issues.”

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