Citizens question if new school has adequate space for students

Bruce Callis, above, expressed his concerns about space issues at the propsed new schools.

A public update on the school construction plan was given last Thursday amidst a flurry of questions and concerns from citizens in the audience.

On Jan. 3, Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith and Rancorn Wildman architect Jack Clarke spoke on the progress made in Richmond County Public School’s plan to eliminate the middle school and become a two-school system.

The project, which has construction costs capped at $15 million and is scheduled to be complete in 2015, will feature additional structures to the elementary and high schools to accommodate Grades 6-8 as well as new sports facilities for varsity and junior varsity teams.

Smith informed the public that the school board expects to spend 10 percent of the funds granted by the Qualified Zone Construction Bond (QSCB) by Apr. 31. The board was awarded $6,085,000 in QSCB funds.

“Those funds have very specific strings tied to them,” Smith said. “We now have six months to begin this project, to vent it out, to have a contractor sign, negotiate a contract and spend 10 percent of those funds.”

The school board therefore expects to spend $608,500 over the course of the next four months.

Members of the audience, however were less concerned over fiscal appropriations than the allocation of classroom space to both sites.

Bruce Callis pointed out the three classrooms that were being taken away from the main building of the elementary school to make way for the new office complex, the old one being replaced by additional seating space for the cafeteria.

Callis questioned the board’s decision to remove instructional space from the main building.

“It’s already overcrowded now,“ he said before asking Smith and Clarke where the displaced classrooms would go.

During last week’s meeting, Smith explained to crowds that the new school designs would accommodate the needs of students and staff.

Smith replied that the classrooms would be allocated to the new building with the music room relegated to the backside with sound-suppressed walls.

“Basically you’ll have three 5th grade classrooms [in the additional wing],” Smith said, adding that the designated classrooms could alternately be used for special education.

Callis also asked if library space would be expanded at either school.

Smith said that he and Clarke were considering incorporating a research library into the wing for sixth and seventh graders.

“The library media space right now isn’t necessarily in the number of volumes that you have,” Smith said. “Now it’s the distance learning and the internet capability that you have.

”If we create space here for that purpose I think that might suffice,” Smith added.

Fifth grade science teacher Sonivette Washington said that based on the blueprint the new instructional space for sixth and seventh graders appeared smaller than the additional classrooms given to eighth, ninth and tenth graders at the proposed high school wing.

“There’s some minor space [differences] because we have one science lab at the elementary school and two science labs at the high school,” Smith replied. “Other than that they’re very similar.”

The superintendent said that he was pleased with the progress of the construction project.

“We have demolished the old little league softball field, which will be the new girls’ softball field,” Smith added.

The expected completion date for the softball facility is Jan. 31. Smith said he expects the high school teams to begin practice on the new field starting in mid-February.

Posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 10:33 am