A resolution to create a new five-year facilities plan was approved by the Newton County Board of Education at its July 16 meeting, but not before board members raised questions about whether funds are in place to pay for demolition of the old Newton High and Sharp school buildings.
The BOE unanimously approved adopting a resolution that would request assistance from the Georgia Department of Education Facilities Section in developing a five-year local facilities plan.
According to NCSS officials, every five years, the school system is required to develop and submit a facilities plan to the State Board of Education identifying facility needs for the ensuing five-year period.
The school system’s current plan will expire on June 30, 2014.
But before the BOE adopted the resolution, BOE member Eddie Johnson asked Mike Barr, director of support services for the NCSS, if approving a new five-year facilities plan would preclude the razing of buildings, namely the old Newton High School and Sharp school building.
Barr recommended waiting until a new facilities plan was developed before making those decisions.
"That gives us an opportunity to look at everything and look at the money that we have available and to make a priority list of the things that need to be done," Barr said. "I would hate for us to do one thing at one facility and say … another facility needs a roof. I would like to have that opportunity to list priorities."
However, Johnson said that he was under the impression that funds were available to raze the old Newton High building and said that he didn’t understand why the board had to wait to approve another facilities plan before razing the building, when a plan was already in place. BOE member Almon Turner agreed.
"If I’m not mistaken, I could be wrong, but we were made to believe that funds were in fact in place to deal with Newton High; it was just in us deciding what would be torn down," Turner said.
But Barr said in his opinion, after five years, the plan needs to be updated and he said that the school system needs to take a comprehensive look at its facilities plan.
"In terms of funds being allocated (to demolish the old Newton High School), I’m not aware of funds being allocated for that specific need or earmarked for that specific need," Barr said.
NCSS business manager Peggy Bullard echoed Barr, saying that school system officials need to look at both the facilities plan and the budget before making decisions on razing the old school buildings.
"If we rush out and use the money to raze the school, then it turns out we need to do an addition, we won’t have the money. So we really need to look at that all together," Bullard said.
Barr added that there were other needs that the board may want to look at before razing buildings.
Jan Loomans, NCSS director of operational services and her team have already began looking at some NCSS schools, and "there are some urgent needs out there," Barr said. "I would just hate to say we don’t need to address those needs before we demolish the high school.
"I would just like to give everyone the opportunity to look at it holistically."
But Johnson reiterated his point.
"Why are we embracing another venture of saving funds when they have already been allocated for that project?" Johnson said, "This is the same thing that happened with Sharp. It was there, funds were there, but lo and behold, it was decided to do something else, and if the funds have been allocated, which have been told to us, then, I think we ought to identify those funds and let the board decide. Not interfering with another five-year plan."
After much discussion, the board approved the resolution to request assistance from the GaDOE Facilities Section in developing a five-year facilities plan. The updated plan will be ready to be adopted by the Board of Education in April 2014 and approved by the State Board of Education in May 2014. The effective date of the new local facilities plan will be July 1, 2014, with an ending date of June 30, 2019.