District set to spend $9.6M on sports complex, projects


Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

In the next school year, the Alachua County School Board will spend $9.6 million on building projects in the county - $2.5 million of which will go toward the purchase of the Diamond Sports Park.

Facts

Upcoming school projects

  • Building a new four-classroom building at Newberry Elementary School for $1.2 million.
  • Constructing a kitchen and music education addition and remodeling the dining room at Alachua Elementary School for $3.6 million.
  • Remodeling of the main building at Shell Elementary School for $5.8 million.
  • Remodeling the kindergarten building at Duval Elementary for $1.04 million.

  • The School Board members met in a workshop with facilities director Ed Gable on Tuesday afternoon to tentatively approve the list of building projects for the next five years. The School Board members will view it again at their meeting on Tuesday and, if it is approved, it will be sent to the state Department of Education.

    Besides the purchase of the Diamond Sports Park, the School Board plans to build an eight-classroom science lab building at Santa Fe High School to the tune of $4.5 million in the 2006-07 school year. The plan also calls for expansion and remodeling of the student services building - which includes services like the guidance office - at Lincoln Middle School for $2.1 million.

    The remaining $446,000 of the coming year's facilities budget will go toward the expansion and remodeling of the media center at Gainesville High School. School Board members originally budgeted an additional $2.5 million toward the project, but that was redirected to purchase the Diamond Sports Park.

    However, Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said the media center renovation will not be delayed by the redirection of the $2.5 million.

    The School Board had set aside the money for the renovation ahead of schedule to make sure it would be available, but she said the renovation was not scheduled to happen during the coming year. In the tentative building schedule, another $2.5 million has been earmarked in 2007-08 to make up for the money that will be used for Diamond Sports Park this year.

    Other than the projects budgeted for this coming year, the rest of the five-year building schedule that School Board members reviewed Tuesday could change from year to year.

    Some of the projects that are tentatively scheduled to happen between now and 2011 are:

  • Building a new four-classroom building at Newberry Elementary School for $1.2 million.

  • Constructing a kitchen and music education addition and remodeling the dining room at Alachua Elementary School for $3.6 million.

  • Remodeling of the main building at Shell Elementary School for $5.8 million.

  • Remodeling the kindergarten building at Duval Elementary for $1.04 million.

    The School Board members raised concerns about some of the projects scheduled after this coming year and the order in which the projects will be done. All members expressed interest in making sure funds are divvied up as evenly as possible so that school officials won't feel the board is favoring certain schools over others.

    "Before we commit to those projects I think we need to plan," said board Chairman Wes Eubank.

    The members asked Gable to compile a list of all the projects that have been done over the past several years and those that still need to be done so schools can see that board members are trying to spread the money as far as it will go.

    "I think if it were all laid out and they could see what has been done, they might have a different perspective," said School Board Member Tina Pinkoson.

    Overall, Gable presented the School Board with a facilities work program that described $133 million worth of building projects - not including regular maintenance and care - that is needed throughout the county over the next five years. However, the School Board only foresees having the funds for $47 million in building projects, leaving about $86 million in unfunded projects.

    Earlier this year, the School Board voted in favor of a plan to ask county voters for a half-cent sales tax referendum to fund building projects. However, the School Board did not put a timeline on when it would put the request on the ballot.

    If approved, the surtax could provide the district with nearly $20 million each year for building projects, according to Gable's estimate Tuesday.

    Alice Wallace can be reached at 374-5036 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com

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