BOE Work Session

The Auburn City Schools Board of Education participates in a work session regarding facilities. It approved the facilities plan this week.

The Auburn City Schools Board of Education will likely vote on a new facilities master plan at its meeting on Wednesday.

The plan will outline projects through 2028, including renovations and upgrades to most campuses as well as new construction — an elementary school to be paired with Yarbrough Elementary School and a second high school.

Components of the plan, which has been given to the board for review, were presented during a board work session earlier this week. Superintendent Karen DeLano asked the board to reach out to her with any questions or concerns before the meeting on Wednesday, saying she would like to recommend they approve the plan only if they are comfortable with it.

Board president Tracie West and board member Terry Jenkins both expressed a need for flexibility in a facilities master plan, something they feel this one provides.

West said flexibility is important  in case the school system's enrollment grows exponentially or slows down over the next 10 years.

"What we're seeing is a growth in rooftops in our city right now," she said. "I know that was a major concern, for me to know that we have the possibility to go in either direction."

DeLano said she expects some changes to occur in the plan throughout the next decade, but that the proposed plan gives ACS a starting point from which to move forward.

"We are still growing, but it hasn't been as rapid of growth over the last couple of years," she said. "I think this plan will have to be reviewed constantly, but it does give us a place to start."

Board member Bill Hutto brought up the issue of funding for the projects. The master plan anticipates $172 million of facilities projects, between renovations, upgrades in HVAC systems and cosmetics and new schools, according to Dennis Veronese, assistant superintendent and school system CFO.

"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," Veronese said.

City of Auburn Financial Director Penny Smith, who works closely with ACS, affirmed this position.

"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."

The master plan outlines construction projects for each city campus. One of the first could be renovations to Cary Woods, if the plan is approved. Design work could begin this fall, said Joe Jamgochian with Perkins+Will Architects. The project would create new classrooms and remove older ones.

Other proposed renovations involve making older campuses more functional while also updating them to today's classroom standards. The plan aims to improve the functionality of J. F. Drake Middle School and Auburn Junior High School, to name a couple. Jamgochian said that since the AJHS building used to be a high school, it has too much square footage.

"It's a very large campus for a junior high, very spread out," he said.

Proposed plans include removing structures from the quad, reorganizing athletic components and providing a new softball field.

The two new projects outlined in the plan include an elementary school to be paired with Yarbrough Elementary. This project is slated to start after some of the first priority projects in 2020, Jamgochian said.

Other new construction would include a second high school off Richland Road that is proposed to open before 2025, unless a change in enrollment trends determines otherwise.

The school would be built in phases, with the first phase having a capacity for 1,600 students. A second phase could expand the school to accommodate an additional 600 students.

"It would allow for a period of re-evaluation toward the end of the 2028 Master Plan to make sure that's the right path for y'all to take," Jamgochian said to the board.

The BOE will meet at noon on Wednesday in the Media Room at the junior high school.

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