The Auburn City Schools 2028 Master Plan, adopted by the Board of Education this week, details renovations for all of the school system’s campuses as well as two new facilities projects that include an elementary school to be paired with Yarbrough Elementary and a second high school.
The first two major projects, for which design work will start in October, will concern Cary Woods Elementary and J.F. Drake Middle School.
Construction at Cary Woods will include a new two-story classroom building with an administration area, new parent drop-off area and media center. Site plans also indicate a new outdoor field.
Construction would begin in June and take about 14 months, and existing classroom space would be demolished after the new wing is completed.
“The overall concept is that we would leave the existing commons and kitchen along with those couple of classrooms that were built more recently,” said Joe Jamgochian at a recent work session. Jamgocian is an architect with Perkins+Will, which was contracted to help ACS put together the facilities plan.
The entire project is estimated to cost $18.2 million.
Drake Middle School will receive an overhaul, which is projected to cost $19 million and take 34 months.
“What we’re looking at was really (about) consolidating this campus, trying to tighten up the amount of different buildings you have connected by bays of canopies that have all types of issues,” Jamgochian said.
New construction on campus will include a redesigned entry drive, two-story classroom building, renovated media center, dining, music and art building as well as a softball field and play field. Construction will be completed in phases.
“(We will) be hitting those summer periods and making sure that facilities that are needed for campus operation aren’t taken down until replacements are built,” Jamgochian said.
The school board recently voted to allow Superintendent Karen DeLano to enter into an agreement to purchase two properties neighboring Drake Middle. It is unclear whether these will be worked into Drake's campus. A contract has yet to be signed, and there are no immediate plans for the parcels, according to ACS administration.
Work at Drake Middle School is slated for completion in 2021.
In 2020, design work is slated to begin for a new elementary school, which would become the sister school to Yarbrough Elementary. The school does not yet have a site, but the plan anticipates the project to cost $19.54 million and be occupied for the 2022-23 school year. The school will be similar in design to the new Creekside Elementary School.
Site improvements to East Samford School would also occur in 2020 as a new gymnasium is constructed. Work will continue in 2021 with the construction of cafeteria support space, the demolition of the existing gym and other site upgrades. This scope of work has an estimated price tag of $4.84 million.
Midway through implementation of the facilities plan, in 2025, renovation work will begin on Auburn Junior High School. As it stands now, the school, which was formerly Auburn High School, is not conducive to operate as a junior high, according to Jamgochian.
“It’s a very large campus for a junior high, very spread out,” he said.
The project, which would take 15 months, will involve the demolition of four “pods,” or standalone buildings behind the front office building, opening up a greenspace in the middle of campus. A new administration and 10-classroom building will be constructed at the entrance, and a new softball field would be built. The total cost is projected to be $10.8 million.
As that project gets off the ground, a second high school could be opening off Richland Road, where ACS previously purchased land. In the event enrollment continues to grow, design work for the second high school would begin in 2020, with the first phase opening in 2024.
The first phase would include construction of a high school with an initial capacity of 1,600. ACS will be able to re-evaluate its needs near 2028, at which time phase two could begin if needed. Phase two would increase the capacity to 2,200 students by adding classrooms, restrooms and administrative space.
The first phase will include all major athletic components, Jamgochian said.
Jamgochian said the plan allows for some flexibility, and ACS Superintendent Karen DeLano said that demographics and facilities needs will continue to be reviewed each year.
The plan also outlines upgrades and renovations for the school system’s seven elementary schools not mentioned above. To see details, find the master plan here.
ACS Assistant Superintendent and CFO Dennis Veronese said the school system should have no problem funding these projects over the next 10 years.
"As long as we continue to retain the 5 Mill Capital Fund and our 16-mill fund, the modeling represents we would be able to fund these projects through 2028," he said.
The 5 Mill Fund accrued about $4.45 million in Fiscal Year 2017, according to the city of Auburn's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and in 2015, Auburn residents voted to direct those monies to the school system rather than to city recreational projects, which had been previously paid for through the fund. The change went into effect starting in Fiscal Year 2016.
City of Auburn Financial Director Penny Smith, who works closely with ACS, said the school system has a good fund balance to work with for future projects.
"There is also a healthy fund balance," she said. "We might be (able to pay) a cash percent on the projects as opposed to just issuing debt over time, which would benefit both the schools and the city in terms of debt load."