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BOE talks options for elementary school

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To build, or to renovate? The Putnam County Charter School System Board of Education is reaching the point of decision regarding the future of Putnam County Elementary School.

At Monday’s board work session, school superintendent Eric Arena said the initial thinking was building two new schools, elementary and middle. But since Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue is high and Putnam does not qualify as a low wealth system, Arena said there would not be enough funds coming from the state to do that.

“The state allocation went down, and the cost of building went up,” said Arena. “So that’s really not feasible. Now we are talking do we renovate, do we tear down and build where we are, or do we build on a new site.”

“There are parts of (the elementary school) that are very dated,” said assistant superintendent Derick Austin. “It’s been pretty challenging. (Principal Scott) Sauls and his staff have done a good job of keeping it up. But we have to get something done, and the board’s been committed to doing that.”

The project has come down to two options, new construction or demolishing part of old building while renovating the remainder. Austin said complete demolishing and rebuilding on the current site is not an efficient option.

The proposed new site for the Elementary School, which is currently on Washington Street, is next to Putnam Middle School, Austin said.

“Anytime we are going to close a school, if we build on that site or if we renovate, we don’t have to have any kind of hearings,” said Arena. “If we build off-site and not use the one on Washington Street, we have to have meetings to talk to parents and the community and let them know.”

The renovation/new construction option is projected to take two years while new construction is projected at one year.

While no decision was to be made at the work session, board chairman Dr. Steve Weiner said spending $20 million on a near 70-year-old building is not a good use of funds.

“To build a brand-new building is going to cost $23 million,” he said. “$3 million difference. I have a hard time convincing myself to put $20 million into a 70-year-old building … and you’re hoping that’s all it will cost.

“You’re going to put $23 million into a brand-new building, to me it’s a no-brainer.”

“That’s the challenge. Speaking with the construction managers, the fear of the unknown,” said Austin in response. “Of not knowing what’s under that slab as it pertains to plumbing and soil.

“We wanted everybody to see where we are so we can stay on schedule. In September and October, we have to make decisions about having the hearings about taking a school off the books.”

The regular Board of Education meeting takes place this Monday, Sept. 20.