farmers

Archived Story

Consensus sought for renovations

Published 11:00pm Thursday, May 23, 2013

An hour before voting to invest $7.4 million in renovations to Charles Henderson Middle School, Dr. Judson Edwards sought consensus from the members of the school board.

“I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of the implications of this,” the board president said during a called work session early Thursday morning. “Once we spend this money on the middle schools, and the money to improve the baseball facility at the high school and add the softball facility, we’re committed to the facilities we have … I want to make sure we’re all good with our existing footprint.”

The middle school renovation, which is the final and most expensive project in a $15 million capital improvement program undertaken by the district two years ago, will involve construction of new buildings and a complete renovation of the middle school campus on Elm Street. The system already has used capital funds to add a pre-kindergarten wing and sixth-grade classrooms to Troy Elementary School and a new cafetorium and media center to Charles Henderson High School, among other projects.

Edwards said while he at one time advocated the possibility of building a new high school for the system, he has since changed his mind and fully supports the capital plan as it has developed. “I think the location of the high school does nothing but benefit the kids by being that close to the university,” he said.

Roxie Kitchens, a former board president, said she was on the board at the time members explored the option of relocating the high school. “Because of the minimum requirements just to buy the land, it didn’t work out,” she said. “And then we’d have to bus the students? I like that we don’t have to bus our students.”

And, Superintendent Lee Hicks said, the estimated cost of construction for a new high school tops $70 million – a price that exceeds Troy’s budget.

“Building a new high school sounds good,” board member Jason Thomas said. “But the money? The busing? In the long run, it costs us more? …

“As for the building and the renovation to the middle school, I think it’s a great idea and I’m all for it. But, I think if we are going in the hole now (financially) I’d like to see a plan where we are not going in the hole while we’re building and moving into this new building.”

Thomas was referring to the district’s use of reserve funds, which are estimated to shrink to less than three months’ operating reserves by the end of next fiscal year.

“We have a budget problem in that the budget is not allocated to the needs of the system,” Edwards said. “In the past, the local funds have been allocated way too much to staffing and when we lost 350 students, we were going in the hole, no matter what happened.”

Edwards said efforts to reduce locally funded teaching units are critical to managing the budget. Those units have been reduced from more than 25 to fewer than 10 thanks to attrition and personnel management. “That’s what we had to do to get our budget moving in the right direction,” Edwards said. “But when you’re dealing with tenure and attrition you can’t move it as fast as you’d like to.”

What the board needs, Edwards said, is a plan that addresses what will happen if it is forced to vote to tap reserves to a level that falls below three months. “I want to know what the plan is to get us back to that three-month reserve level in a year or two years and how we’re going to make it happen.”

Edwards said the board also may consider refinancing its capital bonds before finalizing the financing, which could yield some benefits in debt repayment which begins in 2015.

The board members voted to award the construction bid to Whaley Construction at $7.455 million. Work on the project will begin this summer.

In other business, the board approved five personnel actions, including four transfers and one resignation.

Gina Hastings, business technology teacher, and Robin Snyder, personal finance teacher, will both transfer from Charles Henderson Middle School to Charles Henderson High School effective June 1. Hicks said the transfer is mandated by the state, which is changing the curriculum from a middle school curriculum to a high school one.

Forrest Lee is transferring from physical education teacher at CHMS to physical education teacher at Troy Elementary School effective June 1. The transfer is prompted in part by the move of sixth-graders to Troy Elementary next year.

Bari Rasbury is transferring as a resource teacher for seventh- and eight-grade from CHMS to CHHS effective June 1.

Wini Dunn, science teacher at CHHS, is resigning effective May 24.

 

  • Observer

    The plan to demolish and re-build the middle school has been in the works for nearly two years and they wait until the have bids in their hands to discuss options and then vote to accept the bid?

    What is the great benefit of the high school being near Troy State? It may be great for those who work at Troy State and have their private parking spaces so they can get to the high school quickly. Otherwise, there is no advantage. The proximity to Troy State only means that when the television people tell Troy State to play an early game on a school day the high school has to dismiss early to clear the campus to serve as a parking lot. Now that Troy State has built the new fields adjacent to the high school the high school can expect to enjoy the drunken rowdiness of fraternity athletics just across the street.

    Two members are quoted as saying that if a new school were built the system would have to start busing students and busing would cost them a fortune. Where-ever the schools are located the choice to provide transportation is a choice the board makes – there is no requirement. Even if the Board opted to provide transportation, the bulk of the cost would be borne by the state (and as the economy improves perhaps the entire cost).

    Next fall with the movement of the sixth grade back to TES that school will have eight grades (pre-K, K-6) and all of those parents will be battling up and down the hill morning and afternoon – and parents who work out of town or strange hours will still be dropping small children off at the school way too early and picking them up late – both situations could be ameliorated by providing transportation.

    That $70-million estimate seems a bit high. Enterprise spent about that same amount over-building its 6A high school. It would be reasonable to expect that a 4A or very small 5A would be less expensive.

    Report comment

  • heymonnoproblem

    Observer, where did you get your information concerning busing students? For as long as I can remember, the proximity of all three schools to the residences of a certain percentage (no idea what #) of students has been the explanation as to why the TCS is allowed to not bus its students.

    Report comment

    • Observer

      We have been told for years that (1) city school systems are exempted from any requirement transport students and, alternatively (2) that as long as the majority of students do not live more than two-miles from their school a system is not required to provide transportation.

      Both statements are incorrect. No school system (city or county) is required to provide transportation. Both city and county systems are authorized to own buses if they opt to provide transportation and when transportation is provided there are state and federal regulations which apply.

      The two-mile rule has nothing to do with requiring transportation, it is an outgrowth of a provision that the state will re-imburse school systems for the expense of transporting students based on the percentage of students who live more than two-miles from school. That rule, however, has a loop-hole, the state department of education can waive the two-mile requirement if students living closer that two-miles are endangered if they walk – the absence of sidewalks, lack of protected crossings, high speed roads etc., all are considered. Troy would probably be a cinch to get such a waiver based on Gibbs and Elm Streets and Wallace Drive and the danger posed to pedestrians on them. If a new school were to be built south of US 231 (near the sportsplex) the traffic on 87 would justify a waiver.

      If the two-mile rule really meant that students outside two-miles had to be transported Troy would be in trouble already and that trouble would be getting worse as the population moves south and east.

      If the local board would look into busing it would find that the state will provide training for drivers, will design routes, and will set up financing to keep the system from having to bear the entire cost for the first year.

      If the City System opted to provide transportation and the state provided the expected waiver, the state would allocate funds to pay for buses, drivers, fuel, mechanics, secretaries, supervisors, etc. At one point, about five years ago, the state was actually paying 100 percent of the cost of home to school transportation (the state does not pay for extracurricular activities) but after years of pro-ration that has declined to roughly 75-percent. As the economy improves and revenues increase, the state will return to paying as much as 100-percent.

      Busing would alleviate the problem of children being dropped at school an hour or more before school and being left on campus late in the afternoon. It would also reduce the need for individual vehicles and the groups of small children walking (running, playing, pushing,fighting, etc) along busy streets. It is a safety issue which should be addressed. Particularly on Gibbs St., Troy is on borrowed time .

      Report comment

    • Observer

      The two-mile rule and the matter of fleet renewal money (funds provided by the state to replace buses every ten years) are covered by the Code of Alabama 1975 Section 16-13-233…which responds to each of the statements made in the original post and in the first response

      The Code is available on-line at

      Report comment

Editor's Picks