As the number of elementary school students increases with each academic year, Auburn City Schools is not only building more elementary schools, but beginning the process of creating new school zones.

The goal is to have new zones implemented before the new elementary school off Richland Road is open for the 2018-19 school year. Because of this, the time line to configure the zoning changes will be aggressive.

First, the Board of Education will vote on hiring Cooperative Strategies, a consulting firm that worked with ACS in 2014 to develop its Facilities Plan 2024, at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. Board members were given a list of optional services the company can provide, along with costs and a time line for the planning process, to review before the meeting.

"As large as we've gotten and as complicated as the rezoning becomes, I believe we need some expert attention on this," said Superintendent Karen DeLano during a board work session this week. "I don't take rezoning lightly ... but I do feel like the history of this school system is that we manage that very well, and I don't want anything to change that."

If the board votes to hire Cooperative Strategies, ACS would work closely with Tracey Richter — president of the consulting company who worked with ACS to develop its Facilities Plan 2024 and facilitated the community meetings involved with that process.

The services that Cooperative Strategies could provide include gathering and analyzing demographics and GIS data based on the school system's planning needs, creating multiple zoning options for ACS to consider and potentially facilitating community meetings — something DeLano said is a crucial step in the process.

Since the ACS facilities plan calls for a second new elementary school to open in 2021 and a second high school to open in 2022, DeLano said she would ask Richter and his team to create zoning options that consider those two schools.

Before the second new elementary school opens in 2021 and operates as a sister school to Yarbrough Elementary School, Yarbrough will operate as a kindergarten through fifth-grade school.

"We don't want to have to do this again," she said. "We do want to look at ... when we have two high schools and trying to minimize concerns I have — in the interim of getting that pair school (for Yarbrough) — how do we handle that population of K-5?"

Once the data collection and review process begins, the time line has it scheduled for the board to receive information on rezoning options in June. Presentations of options will be included in community meetings, which are expected to take place in the fall.

The board would then vote on rezoning recommendations in January, according to ACS Public Relations Specialist Daniel Chesser.

"You can see the time line ... is pretty ambitious," DeLano said to the board. "These things are always difficult. The good thing about it being difficult is that nobody wants to leave the school that they're in."

Construction is expected to mobilize on June 1 for the elementary school off Richland Road, which is slated to open next year. The project's bid day is May 18, and nine contractors have shown interest in the project.

"Hopefully they'll all come to the table," said Tim Cantey of TCU Consulting Services, who acts as project manager for the new high school and elementary school. "That's the kind of interest we'd love to have."

The ACS Board of Education will hold its monthly meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the multi-media room at Auburn High School. The meeting is open to the public.

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