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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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Schools: Building needs at $90 million
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Staff Photo by Joel Turner: At Franklin County High, the space for automotive services classes on the West Campus is insufficient, school officials said.

Monday, January 10, 2011

By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer

Franklin County schools could be facing nearly $90 million in school building needs in the next decade, needs that range from repaving school parking lots to air conditioning in elementary school cafeterias to major renovations and construction at Franklin County High School and Benjamin Franklin Middle School.

In December, the school board approved a five-year capital improvement plan that includes $22.5 million in school improvements during the next five years.

In addition, the school system has an additional $12 million in capital needs that were not included in the five-year plan, officials said.

On top of these $34.5 million in school capital projects is the need for an estimated $55 million for renovations and construction at Franklin County High School and Benjamin Franklin Middle School to ease overcrowding, officials said.

The $22.5 million five-year plan for school projects and improvements includes roof replacements, bus replacements, air-conditioning in school cafeterias, repaving school parking lots and other school improvements.

The five-year plan is a listing of projects that the school board would like to undertake, but the availability of funds will determine how many projects will be completed.

The capital plan also includes additional bays at the school bus garage, the installation of central station smoke detectors, and central office expansion.(Steve Oakes, director of facilities and transportation for the school system, said that the schools have an additional $12 million in capital needs beyond the five-year capital plan of $22.5 million.

These needs range from an automotive services building at Franklin County High School to a pupil personnel services and technology services building for the school system.

At Franklin County High, the space for automotive services classes on the West Campus is insufficient, Oakes said. There are an insufficient number of bays and ceilings are not high enough. Storage space for parts and heavy equipment is inadequate, and there is a need for a lab setting where students can receive hands-on training, he added. A new automotive services building is estimated to cost $951,526.

School officials said that the school system also needs a new facility for pupil personnel services and technology. Currently, these programs are housed in old modular units that were previously used as classrooms.

A new facility, estimated to cost $2.8 million, is needed to house these programs, particularly for pupil personnel services storage and technology services main computer work operations and equipment, Oakes said. Backup electrical power is also needed for technology services.

In addition, Oakes said, the meeting and training spaces for both departments are inadequate for their current operations.

The growth in athletic teams at Benjamin Franklin Middle School has also created a need for additional athletic fields and facilities. School officials said there is a need for a field house and more locker room space at an estimated cost of $2 million, and additional athletic fields at a cost of $482,944.

A new high school and/or renovations at FCHS is not included in the five-year plan. Neither are renovations or additions to Benjamin Franklin Middle School included. The cost for these projects is estimated to be at least $55 million, school officials said.

Consultants said that both FCHS and Benjamin Franklin Middle School are facing space squeezes, and the school system should take steps to provide more space at both schools.

Even though the consultants have not proposed a second high school, they have indicated that the county is facing substantial cost to address the space problems and other issues at BFMS and FCHS. They suggested that the county could be facing a total cost of about $55 million (the detailed options range from $40 million to $75 million, depending on the options that are selected for the high school and middle school projects).

Because of the school system's budget crunch, it is unlikely that school officials will have the capital funds in the next few years to undertake many of the projects.

School officials said the projects are part of the school system's long-range capital improvements plan -- not the schools' operating budget. Because the projects are not part of the school system's operating budget, they said, they would not be competing for operational funds for the schools. The school capital improvement funds are separate from the schools' operating funds.

Each year, the school board approves a five-year capital plan for needed projects, but the projects are not implemented until funds are available.

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