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School Board mulling use of former middle school building

The King George School Board is once again talking about possible uses for the former middle school building. That topic was on the agenda as a discussion item at last week’s meeting on Sept. 9.


School Board member Mike Rose had suggested during the previous meeting on Aug. 26 that the subject be decided later this fall. At that time he said, “After the year gets started would like to really take a hard look at the former middle school and make up our minds what we want to do with it.”

The topic was informally kicked around last week, with Rose reminding his colleagues that the use of it by the Smoot Library over the last two years is at an end. The newly renovated and expanded library is scheduled for a ceremonial re-opening later this month on Sept. 28 at 11 a.m.

The former middle school building continues to be used by the county’s Parks & Recreation department, particularly the gym.

The building was shuttered for student use in June 2009. That took place after the completion and opening of a new high school earlier that year, built at a cost of over $42 million.

When the 7th and 8th grades of middle school students and staff came back to school that September, they moved into the renovated former high school building, which was renamed King George Middle School.  

Opening a new high school to hold 1,700 pupils added significant student capacity at the secondary level. As of last week, the high school’s enrollment was 1,296.

Another vacated building is the former vocational building located between the current middle and high schools. That was likewise vacated by students and staff in June 2009.

 

CURRENT DISCUSSION
The discussion about the former middle school building mirrored the one the group had seven months ago, when the topic came up at a meeting in February while the School Board was discussing a proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) request to the county.

As in February, this discussion appeared to be at cross purposes with no consensus on any suggestion tossed out.

Rose said, “I don’t want it to become like Ralph Bunche and just become a crumbling building. I want us to use it. We had good service out of it.”

He said he would update his analysis relating to school capacity and enrollment and bring it to the next meeting. Rose said from his recollection that the elementary schools were at about 80 to 90 percent capacity.

SIXTH GRADE ACADEMY?
Rose’s notion for use of the middle school includes the possibility of shifting the 6th grades from the elementary schools to the building.

But when that has been looked at in the past, the numbers didn’t work without the addition of several trailer classrooms.

MAINTENANCE NEEDED
Ken Novell said, “If we come up with a use for the middle school, we probably won’t be renovating it for awhile, so it seems like we should probably look at what we can do to keep that from deteriorating.”

Rose said the county had no desire to renovate the building until a use is identified. But that had to do with a request for a new heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC) system estimated at $1.5 million. The county does not want to have that work done until a use is found that may also require other renovations and reconfiguration of rooms.  

But Novell had appeared to be talking about regular maintenance being performed at the building.

SHIFT OPERATIONS FROM SBO?
Rick Randall brought up a recurring suggestion that the division might shift all of its functions from the central school board office to the building, including Head Start and early childhood education classes. He asked for a trade study to see if that building could support those uses.

If that would work, Randall suggested the current School Board Office building could be vacated, with that building possibly handed over to the county.

Currently, the gym and Hunter Field at the same site are due to be turned over to the county for use, scheduling and maintenance, since the division no longer uses those facilities.

But there were objections to that idea from Rose and Chairman John Davis, with no consensus provided from the other two members.

BENSON ON ENROLLMENT
Superintendent Rob Benson talked about enrollment and trends over the last four years, saying some schools have had growth, while others have had little.

Benson added, “I guess the one thing that I do believe is, we are growing. I don’t believe we’re leveling out and staying there. I do think that at different schools we are growing at different paces.”

Benson also said, “I don’t think there’s any question that at some point here, maybe in two, three years, we’re going to need additional instructional space. Would it be an entire building such as the old middle school? I don’t know. I do know we’ll need instructional space. So I’d be very hesitant to make any kind of recommendation where we would relinquish that building and then we’d be back in the situation where we’d have to install portables until we could have a new facility built.”

The topic is slated to be on the agenda again for the next meeting on Sept. 23.

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