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Schools planning improvements

Years of pinching pennies is paying off for the Lincoln CountySchool District, which is using money saved piecemeal from annualbudgets to fund several upgrades to facilities at each of thecounty’s four schools this year.

Superintendent Terry Brister said the district is about to startwork on eight separate projects – some immediate, some long-term -across the district to improve athletic facilities, expand parkingfor students and guests and repair existing structures.

The projects are in their early phases, he said. And althoughcost estimates are still being compiled on most, he expects thetotal to reach in the neighborhood of $500,000.

All the work will be done with local funds and will require nobond issues.

“We’ve planned hard and ahead, and we’ve only pursued thoseprojects we could afford,” Brister said. “We will not go in debt. Igive (projects) $5,000 here, $5,000 there and another $5,000 overhere as I can. You take on projects you can do, and not take outbonds. The taxpayers have enough on them.”

With new classrooms and other facilities built at other schoolsand only recently completed, Brister said needs for academic spacehave been met and the eight projects waiting for bids this year aremainly infrastructural in nature. The primary goal of the projectsis to create more parking spaces for students and visitingparents.

“We have none,” Brister said of parking at the four schools.”We’re everywhere – we’re right on the road. All of our sites arein dire need of parking.”

At Loyd Star Attendance Center, the district’s biggest school,17 acres of land between the site and nearby Jackson-Liberty Drivepurchased in 2006 are about to be converted into a new parking lot,and the groundwork for a future football stadium is being laid. Theplanned parking area is designed to service students and attendeesto all Loyd Star sporting events, Brister said, a need that can beclearly seen at the school on Friday nights when the shoulders ofHighway 550 are strewn with cars.

A new football field is still years away, Brister said, and onlythe initial dirt work will be performed this year.

Eventually, new classrooms will be built on the site of thecurrent football field, he said. He said a new field would benecessary because new classrooms must be kept close, and the17-acre property is far behind the school.

Work is continuing on the new band hall at Loyd Star, which willgive the county’s only high school band a new practice space withimproved acoustics.

The 40×60-foot building has already been erected, and Bristersaid interior work would begin this year. Once the new band hall iscomplete, the old one will be renovated into offices and storagespace for the band, he said.

“They’re very productive for our schools and parents as far asscholarships are concerned, and we’re gonna take care of them,”Brister said of the Loyd Star band members.

West Lincoln Attendance Center is also in line for parkingupgrades. Brister said the school’s main parking lot will berepaved, while a gravel lot adjacent to the gymnasium would bepaved.

The most expensive project at West Lincoln – and perhaps themost expensive on the district list – will be replacing the roof ofthe Jack Case Gymnasium. Brister said the job is estimated to costaround $150,000 or more, but necessary to keep the leaky roof fromdestroying the building.

“We checked it out, and it’s showing signs of aging,” hesaid.

At Bogue Chitto Attendance Center – the only school notstruggling to provide parking for its students – a small project toconstruct a pavilion on the newly furnished playground will beginthis year. Brister said he would begin seeking price estimates forthe installation of new metal bleachers at the school’s baseballfield.

Enterprise Attendance Center will see a project similar to thatof Loyd Star’s, and will have its current baseball field turnedinto a parking lot once a new field, further away from the school,is constructed. Just like at Loyd Star, Brister said parking areaswill be created close to the facilities, while sporting arenascould stand to be placed farther away.

“You don’t want to move your parking all the way to the back,slap in the woods,” he said. “We’ll build the parking lot up closeand let it service everything.”

The girls’ softball team at Enterprise will also have a newdressing room, courtesy of a renovated old weight room at theschool.

Major projects like the new football and baseball fields arestill ongoing projects, Brister said, and will be builtdollar-by-dollar over the coming years, just like the projectsgoing ahead in 2009 were. Most of the current projects have beenplanned since 2006, he said.

“Hopefully, we’re being good stewards, and conservative, withthe taxpayers’ dollars while building, upgrading and maintainingour campuses to accommodate our students and community while wegrow into the future,” Brister said.