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Classrooms, sports projects are top requests for school district

The greatest need for the campus at West Lincoln Attendance Center is a new annex building containing four to six classrooms — and six other projects for the football, softball and basketball facilities.

Sports-related projects account for roughly half the campus improvement requests prioritized by the four principals. They submitted them to Lincoln County School District Superintendent Mickey Myers, who reviewed the lists with the school board Monday evening in an attempt to compile a district-wide construction master list for the board to follow. The list was suggested — demanded, almost — by board president Diane Gill late last month when she joined District 1 trustee Kay Coon and former board member Ricky Welch in a 3-2 vote against the proposed new sports complex at Loyd Star, but they made clear the project could come back to life, in an altered form, once the board adopted a roadmap for future projects.

“There were three reasons for voting down the proposal — cost, needs at other schools and access to property,” Myers said as he flipped through large maps of each campus. “I think at some point there was a commitment to Loyd Star.”

As a first step toward establishing the priorities list, Myers asked each principal to rank major construction needs of $50,000 or more in order of urgency, as well as more minor repair and renovation needs.

West Lincoln Principal John Shows lists the classroom annex as his campus’s most-pressing need, followed by a field house with locker and weight rooms, crowning the football field and draining improvements, new lighting for the football field and parking lot, a paved access road and parking for the baseball and softball fields, additional bleachers, remodeling of the gym, remodeling of the gym’s restrooms, resurfacing the cafeteria floor and a complete classroom for the ag program.

Loyd Star Principal Robin Case listed the proposed $1.9 million sports complex as her campus’s top priority, followed by new classrooms for the alternative program; the purchase of adjacent land to allow straight-through access between Jackson-Liberty Drive, the new complex and the existing campus; the purchase of adjacent land near the baseball and softball fields for drainage improvements and parking; the purchase of adjacent land north of the elementary school for playground and parking areas; and replacement of the light poles on the softball field.

The board gave Myers permission Monday to pursue the purchase of a long, narrow strip of land on the property directly south of the 13-acre lot where the sports complex is proposed that would give the campus the straight-through access it needs. Welch pointed out the lack of connecting property between the two sites last month when he voted against the sport complex.

Myers said the strip is disputed by two landowners beside the campus, and its acquisition would allow the site of the proposed complex and campus to connect directly. The property would also allow the parent pickup line to be rerouted around campus and taken off Hwy. 550.

“It’s 90 feet wide at Jackson-Liberty, and it comes all the way across to border the Loyd Star property,” he said. “I would love to get a cost for this piece of land and determine the owner’s willingness to sell it.”

Enterprise Principal Terry Brister reported his campus’s top need as replacing the football team’s field house and adding a new press box; building new playgrounds and installing playground equipment; a paved, gated drive that would loop around the south side of the campus between Topisaw Drive and Hwy. 583; upgrades for the parking lots for the baseball and softball fields; possible classrooms for the future; and a weight room for female athletes.

The least amount of sports-related requests came form Bogue Chitto Principal Scott Merrell, whose dozen projects included only four sporting upgrades. He wants to renovate the old Calhoun Gym and convert it into classroom space; gate the campus parking lot; build an erosion control berm near the elementary school; renovate the break area; build an erosion control berm near the new gym; pave the football and softball parking lots; repaint the parking lot spaces; pave campus drive; campus-wide erosion control projects; new classrooms for band, career tech and choir; new football bleachers; and a new press box at the football field.

The principals’ renovation lists were all similar and contained numerous leaking roof jobs and HVAC replacements.

The board is planning a work session to review the lists more thoroughly and tabled action on all the projects but one — roof repairs over the lobby of the gym at Loyd Star, which sprung considerable leaks during recent rains. Myers said the preliminary estimate for the job is $35,000.

“We’re 20 years out from a lot of construction, and we’ve got to consider roof leaks and HVAC for these projects,” Myers said. “That’s what you’ll see at all four campuses.”

Most of the board’s early discussion on the lists centered on Merrell’s request to renovate the old gym at Bogue Chitto.

“Back when all this building was going on, the architect at the time said it would be too expensive, and recommended we do away with it and build classrooms instead,” Coon recalled.

District 5 trustee Joanna Posey requested new estimates for each job so the board could compare renovation and demolition.

“It’s going to be a pretty big project to convert a building like that,” said District 2 trustee Johnny Hart. “If it’s pretty close, we could give the kids a state-of-the-art facility instead of a 50-year-old gym.”