The Auburn City Schools Board of Education will consider items at its Feb. 14 board meeting regarding the future of its facilities, including the master plan for recently-purchased property off Richland Road and the renaming of the Auburn Junior High School.
The master plan for the property off Richland Road includes campuses for a new elementary school, which is slated to open in 2018, and a second high school. Plans for a second high school have not begun, but ACS administration continues to work toward updating its Facilities Plan 2024, which currently plans for opening a second high school in 2020.
Assistant Superintendent and CFO Dennis Veronese said he has worked closely with architect Perkins+Will on the master plan, and together they have reviewed multiple options for situating the two buildings on the Richland Road property.
The plan shows the elementary school being located on the north side of the property and the high school existing on the south side, due to traffic concerns.
Board President Tracie West said she remains concerned about traffic, not only because of the impact two new schools would have on the area, but because of the rapid growth rate of subdivisions in that area.
"I'm very concerned about the impact and scope of these buildings and what the trips per day is going to put on this road," she said. "Private development is happening quickly at the end of the road and additional property is still available for sale. I'm very concerned that in five years, 10 years we're going to have an unhappy group of citizens on Richland Road."
Superintendent Dr. Karen DeLano said residents are already expressing complaints about traffic in that area, which is something ACS is considering in its master plan for the Richland property.
An approval of the master plan through a school board vote will only finalize the location of the two facilities on the property, but not the actual orientation of each building on the site. A master plan will aid the city in its future planning for Parks and Recreation, which is why the item is coming before the school board now.
The new elementary school's design phase is progressing, as a preliminary design was submitted to the Alabama Building Commission last Friday. The final design must be submitted by March 31. Construction is slated to begin in June.
Once the elementary school opens, it will likely house grades two and three, DeLano said, although she is not ready to make a formal recommendation to the board yet.
"I'm leaning toward making it a grade two- and three-(school) until we get a sister school," she said. "That would give Richland (Elementary School) some relief. It seems like the logical thing to do."
If the new elementary school temporarily houses grades two and three, Richland Elementary will likely house kindergarten and first grade and Yarbrough Elementary School will house grades four and five. Once another elementary school is built to pair with Yarbrough, Richland Elementary and the new school will become sister schools, with the latter likely housing grades three through five and Richland Elementary going back to housing kindergarten through second grades.
DeLano said ACS is already searching for land for another new elementary school.
By this time next year, DeLano also hopes to bring a recommendation for a change in school zones to the board. That way, new zoning will be in effect the same year the new elementary school opens.
"As we move into a new building on Richland and are looking at what our numbers are in our elementary schools, it looks like we're going to need to rezone," DeLano said.
ACS has asked company DeJong-Richter — which has previously provided the school system with demographics studies, enrollment projections and facility-planning assistance — to work up a proposal to do the rezoning.
"It's a difficult process to maneuver and one that we do not enter into lightly," DeLano said.
At its Feb. 14 meeting, the board will also consider a recommendation for the renaming of the Auburn Junior High School, located on East Samford Avenue.
Suggestions include East Samford Academy, East Samford School, East Samford Middle School or East Samford Center.
The renaming committee considered the building's history and location when coming up with a list of suggestions to make to the board. When the school was founded in 1837, it was known as Auburn Academy.
Assistant Superintendent Cristen Herring spoke on behalf of the committee and welcomed the board's feedback before DeLano makes a formal recommendation to the board in February.