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Technology, middle school top TCS capital plans

A new middle school, 21st Century classrooms, and a new pre-K facility top the list of the capital improvement plan approved by the Troy City School board on Monday.

“We’re getting busy folks,” board member Wally Lowery said at the end of the meeting. “I hope the people in this city see that.”

Planning to draw from a combination of funding sources, including cash reserves and the refinancing of bonds, the board outlined a plan that would position the district to meet several different needs, including technological advances; adding programs; and addressing outdated facilities.

The 21st Century Classroom project, which would be funded from the system’s cash reserves would install electronic whiteboard technology in all core curriculum classrooms, along with various other accessories, including document cameras; DVD recorders; camcorders; a clicker response system; speakers; and a microphone. Explaining the project during the work session prior to the board meeting, Dr. Linda Felton-Smith said the estimated cost to outfit a classroom is $7,500. “And I’m guessing we may have 100 classrooms,” she said. “But I’m waiting for an exact count from the principals.” The preliminary estimate for the project is $750,000.

The system already has the 21st Century Classroom equipment in five high school math classrooms and one middle school math classroom, all of which was funded by a grant, she said. “We’re using those as a model.”

“This is what our students need, and there’s no doubt the instruction will be better once teachers learn how to utilize the technology,” she said. “I think I shared with you the story of Brandon Stephens, who was going to be out one day and was able to record his lesson and have it taught through his white board while he was out. I have a parent who called and said her son couldn’t stop talking about that experience.”

The second item on the capital improvement list is the construction of a new middle school, although no location has been selected for the school.

“We’ve talked about what we can do, and whether we should keep pouring money into what we have now or not,” Felton-Smith said. “We’ve decided to use a number of $9 million to see what we can get.”

She is in the process of submitted requests for proposals to several different architectural firms, and she is hopeful those will be ready for the board to review at its October meeting. “One of the complications is that we need a minimum of 10 acres of land and, for every 100 students, you add an additional acre of land, so we’re looking at needing 16 acres of land. We don’t have any land in place, and hopefully nobody will go about and buy any land and try to sell it to us.”

Construction of the middle school likely would be funded by the restructuring of the board’s $7.5 million in bonds. By taking advantage of the low interest rates, and financing for 30 years, the board could refinance and seek additional capital, up to $14 million total. “Of course, we have a lot we want to do,” Felton-Smith said.

Other projects include the construction of a facility to house a pre-K program. “We need a pre-K program,” she said. “Even with Head Start and all the Mothers Day Out and private programs, we still have children who are not being prepared for kindergarten. We have talked about this as a board, and we know it’s something we need to do.”

Where remains to be determined, she said. “We don’t know if this would be a new facility or a renovated one, but we would want it to be a good facility. We may have to start small and grow.”

A fourth project on the capital improvements list is the renovation of the Charles Henderson High School cafeteria. “I have said time and time again we are on borrowed time, but we are going to need a cafeteria at some point in time,” she said. Options could include gutting the existing cafeteria and renovating with a modified food court option or incorporating some of the existing buildings on campus to remodel or expand the cafeteria.

The fifth project on the capital improvement list is the construction of a softball complex on the high school campus. “Some parents would like us to play softball at the campus,” Felton-Smith said. “Currently we play at the Sportsplex.”

“If we get these bonds refinanced, can’t this be a top priority?” Lowery said of the cafeteria. “This thing is an eyesore.”

Deciding what will be the priority will be difficult, Felton-Smith said.

“The maximum amount of money we’re talking about is $14 million, and even in this times where prices are down in terms of construction costs, we can’t do everything. Even in terms of building a new school, you have to determine if you’re moving your current furniture and equipment or buying new … and $9 million isn’t a whole lot of money to set aside for a new, 72,200-square foot school.”

In other business during its meeting on Monday, the board:

• Approved the hiring of Roosevelt Coleman as a custodian at Charles Henderson Middle School

• Approved the hiring of Elly Reeves as an instructional aide at Troy Elementary School

• Recognized Deborah Kelley as the Star Award winner.

• Heard a report on the 2010 Assessments and Dates

• Approved a resolution nominating Felton-Smith as the District 3 representative for the Alabama School Superintendent of the Year.

• Heard an Academic Report on 2010 Alabama Writing Assessment Data. Fifth graders scored 72 percent proficient overall; seventh-graders, 90 percent; and 10th graders, 93 percent.