In a special-called meeting this week, the Auburn City Schools Board of Education approved the low bid of $14.5 million for new classroom construction at Cary Woods Elementary School.
The bid came from First Team Construction Co., based in Auburn, and was the lowest of five "very competitive" bids, according to ACS Superintendent Karen DeLano.
The elementary school's current classroom building opened in 1958 as a Lee County school. (ACS formed three years later.)
Though the original building has been adapted over the years to fit growing enrollment, DeLano, a Cary Woods alum, said she can still visualize the original layout of the school, which started out with six classrooms — one each for grades one through six — and two wings.
"There was no cafeteria, no gym, nothing of that nature," she said. "Those classrooms are essentially exactly the same as they were with new paint and upkeep. I think the system's done a great job over the 50 years, or whatever it's been now, of keeping that building looking good and having a good environment, but it was getting to a point where it was getting hard to keep."
A new classroom wing will be constructed on campus field space, and the current one will be demolished. Not only will the new building provide additional class space for an elementary school that has been operating just a hair under capacity, but it will also bring new electrical and heating and air systems to the campus.
"The heating and air and electrical were going to have to all be done no matter what happened," DeLano said. "We needed additional classrooms also. Just to redo (the current building) would not have been enough.
"The new wing gives us enough classroom space, gives us new air and new electrical and some resource types of rooms that we have not had."
The new Cary Woods building will have a capacity for 600 students. Currently attending the school are 483 students. The original classroom building has a capacity for 506 students, meaning it is operating at 95.45 percent capacity.
Site prep will start after Memorial Day. Construction will be ongoing through the upcoming school year and will take place on the opposite side of campus from the current classroom wing. The construction area will be barricaded for further safety.
Once the new building is constructed, demolition will begin on the current classroom building. The new wing is slated to open in August 2020.
"It'll be tight, but I think we'll make it," DeLano said.
This construction project will be completed in tandem with renovations to J.F. Drake Middle School. The Board of Education is expected to hear a bid recommendation regarding that project in the coming weeks.
Both the renovations to Cary Woods and Drake Middle School are slated to be paid for by the city's Special 5 Mill Tax Fund, which has recently funded the new Auburn High School as well as Creekside Elementary School.
The fund generates about $4.8 million annually and formerly funded city recreational projects. In 2015, the Auburn City Council dedicated the fund to facilities projects amid rapidly increasing school enrollment.
Now, about every four or five years, a public vote is required to approve the 5 Mill Fund be allocated for specific upcoming facilities projects.
On July 23, a special municipal election will do just that. The city will seek approval from the public to issue bonds worth $46 million to pay for both the Cary Woods Elementary and Drake Middle School projects. The city would then be repaid over time with money from the 5 Mill Fund.
Plans for the two projects are outlined in the ACS 2028 Master Plan, which can be found online at auburnschools.org.
In other news, the BOE will meet in a special-called meeting Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the candidates who recently interviewed for superintendent.
Editor’s note: The article has been updated to correct the year the new wing at Cary Woods will open.