15 Richmond County school construction projects could begin in 2013

The Richmond County Board of Education proposed beginning 15 school construction projects in 2013, an undertaking that helps complete expensive projects during an advantageous money market.

On Saturday morning, the second and final day of the board’s retreat, Jeff Baker, the program director for the school system’s building program, presented a tentative schedule for 38 school capital improvement projects using a 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax approved by voters March 6.

The first 15 projects would use 72 percent of the $130 million in tax money, Baker said. The three most costly projects are upgrades to Butler and Laney high schools and Murphey Middle Charter School.

“We are in this phase attempting to be much more aggressive than we have been in previous phases to get as much work to the streets as quickly as possible because, as we talked about before, we have market conditions that are to our advantage,” Baker said.

After planning and design, construction could begin in June 2013. Design for three more tiers of less urgent projects would begin in January 2013, January 2014 and September 2014.

The board voted unanimously to approve the schedule after making some modifications to Baker’s original proposal. Construction of an ROTC building at Cross Creek High School was moved up as well as adding classrooms at A.R. Johnson.

Other schools in the first construction year include Copeland and Lake Forest Hills elementary schools, Tutt and Langford middle schools and Glenn Hills and Westside high schools. Additionally, former school buildings of Davidson, Forest Hills and A.C. Griggs could be demolished as early as this summer.

The board said they would contact the city, historic preservation groups and a potential buyer to determine whether there was any serious interest in refurbishing the Davidson school building on Telfair Street.

Also at the retreat, the board created evaluation criteria for Acting Superintendent James Whitson. Whitson has been leading the district since February 2011, when Frank Roberson underwent emergency brain surgery.

After input from Whitson and agreement from Rober­son, who works three days a week and was at the retreat, the board established three grading points: student achievement, including Race to the Top initiatives, implementation of a new waiver process for No Child Left Behind and accreditation processes; financial handling under tightened budgets and layoffs; and his communication with the public and the board.

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