School report urges major renovations

Published 9:00 pm Friday, March 9, 2012

Major structural renovations are needed across the Brookhaven School District, according to a study commissioned by the board of trustees.

     The study, compiled by a consulting firm, praises the district’s academic success but says maintenance of physical facilities has not kept pace and must be addressed soon.

     The study recommends the district take several measures, most notably the consolidation of the district’s three current elementary schools into two elementary schools.

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     But district leaders don’t see any schools closing in the near future.

     “That’s a conversation that will take a long time,” said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya. “That’s a long way down the line.”

     Specifically, the consultant’s report recommends using Brookhaven Elementary School only as office space. Mamie Martin would house kindergarten through the third grade and Lipsey fourth through sixth grades.

     School board president Karen Braden concurred with Karmacharya.

     “We just found out about that last week as an option,” Braden said.

“We are a long way from making any decisions on that.”

     The district’s financial capabilities will largely determine how the board proceeds, Braden said.

     The report on district facilities, compiled by the Bailey Education Group, was presented to board members in an unannounced work session held prior to last week’s board meeting.

     A draft of the report obtained from Bailey Education Group president Gary Bailey says, “The district maintains six academic facilities for an enrollment of approximately 2,950 students creating many inefficiencies.”

     The report identifies the current central office as lacking; it cannot accommodate all district-wide offices and services. The food services director works out of Mullins Alternative School, for example.

     Moving the central office to BES would alleviate this problem, the study says.

     In the regularly scheduled meeting that followed last week’s unannounced work session, the board took action to address one infrastructure problem: leaking roofs.

     The board voted to allocate $1.5 million of the general operating fund to replace the roofs at buildings throughout the district.

     Four school sites will be the recipients of new roofs, Bailey said this week.

     The worst is the Vocational Center, where the entire roof must be replaced, Bailey said. Portions of Mamie Martin’s roof must also be replaced, about half of Lipsey’s roof and one roof at Alexander Jr. High’s campus.

     These buildings are experiencing severe leaking problems, Bailey said. Repairs must happen this summer as waiting another year does not appear to be a viable option.

     “You would be impacting instruction,” Bailey said. “There would be buckets in the classrooms. “

     Bailey said the $1.5 million set aside by the board should be more than adequate to cover repairs. He hopes to advertise the project in April and receive bids by mid May.

     Karmacharya believes mechanical needs will be next on the board’s agenda after roof repairs take place. She said that will include electrical systems, lighting and air conditioning.

     Karmacharya echoed the study on this point. The study notes most buildings in the district are 40-50 years old and says mechanical and electrical systems should be addressed.