Columbia County might tear down older schools

Plan announced this morning includes many changes
Bel Air Elementary
Bel Air Elementary
The Columbia County Board of education announced that its plans to close Bel Air Elementary (shown) and redistribute those students to new, larger schools built on the current sites of Martinez and Evans elementary schools.



At least four Columbia County schools might be rebuilt and another shut down under a sales tax package proposed this morning by school officials.

If voters pass the $148.6 million 1-percent sales tax package to go before them on the July 20 ballot, new construction likely will start with Columbia Middle School.

With a price tag of almost $20 million, the school would be relocated between Hereford Farm and Belair roads on Columbia Road and its capacity increased from 38 classrooms to 51, according to a five-year facility study conducted by school officials.

The new Columbia Middle could hold as many as 1,100 pupils and relieve overcrowding at Evans Middle, Superintendent Charles Nagle told school board members during a Wednesday meeting.

Once the new school opens in 2012, the former site would be used to expand the system's Nutrition and Transportation departments.

The old school might also be used to house Evans Elementary pupils for a year.

Nagle said he hopes to find a new site for a new Evans Elementary. If that effort fails, pupils from the school might temporarily move to Columbia Middle while a new school is constructed at the Gibbs Road location.

While construction takes place on a new Martinez Elementary on Flowing Wells Road, those pupils might move to Bel Air Elementary for a year.

Once both Evans and Martinez elementary schools open, by 2012 to 2014, Nagle said Bel Air Elementary would be shut down. Those pupils would be split between the larger Evans and Martinez schools. The Bel Air property, which is located on a growing commercial corridor in Evans, would then be sold.

Capacity at Evans and Martinez elementary schools would increase up to 1,000 pupils. Each currently takes nearly 470 pupils. The new schools would cost up to $12.5 million to build.

The final component of the first construction phase of the 2012-17 sales tax proposal includes building a new alternative school at its current site in Grovetown.

The $2.5 million project would allow for 24 classrooms, many of which also would be used for vocational studies with students attending from all area high schools.

The second construction phase of the project would include rebuilding North Columbia and North Harlem elementary schools at about $10.5 million each.

Phase three calls for the construction of a new Harlem Middle at $20 million and South Columbia Elementary at $10.5 million.

Other projects likely to be included in the sales tax referendum include upgrading athletic facilities, buying buses, upgrading auditoriums, roofing projects and paying off about $37 million in debt.

All of the projects are contingent upon state approval of the system's facility plan. Nagle said he hopes to get that approval by March.


Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115,





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