District eyes classroom addition; Plans call for 12 rooms at DHS

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, December 15, 2018
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Decatur ISD could push forward with plans to build a 12-classroom addition at the high school next month.

During a workshop Monday, Decatur ISD trustees voiced support for a plan presented by administrators for a three-story classroom addition on the back side of the high school building.

“We have set aside the money for construction. We need to go forward with the construction,” said trustee Wade Watson.

The district’s architect, George DeJohn of Claycomb, indicated that renderings could be presented to the board in January for formal approval of the construction.

The district hired Steele and Freeman as its construction manager at-risk during the summer to build the bistro, which is now being called a caf , in the high school library. The district approved a guaranteed maximum price of $423,932 for the project, which did not include all fees and furniture. DeJohn said Monday the facility, which is under construction, should be completed no later than April 1.

The builder was also hired for planned athletic improvements – weight room, locker room and media room. The athletic facilities were later shelved. The district has spent $200,609 on the plans for those improvements, including $192,609 in architect fees.

In a report Monday, Decatur ISD Deputy Superintendent Cindy Tatum told the board there is $5.986 million available in reserves for construction. The district has more than $14 million in total reserves of which $2.8 million is restricted and another $7 million unassigned. The district tries to keep three months of operating costs in reserves, which would be $7.762 million.

Tatum said with the addition of $1.5 million to the general reserves this year, the district will have more than the three months of expenses in the account.

Decatur High School Principal Chris Mogan and Academic Dean Kaci Cook presented the plans for the classroom addition to the board.

Mogan said after meeting with members of the staff and district, including Athletic Director Mike Fuller and Fine Arts Department Chair Eric McNeil, that the additional classroom space was a priority.

“Obviously there’s some athletic needs, and obviously there’s some fine arts needs with the band hall, stage, theatre and choir; but without hesitation, I can assure you that [Fuller and McNeil] said we had to have the classrooms added on to the building,” Mogan said.

Mogan said the focus became a 12-unit addition. It will essentially be 10 classrooms because two spaces will be science labs.

He noted that the new space will be flexible classrooms that can be used for a variety of subjects, including the school’s burgeoning career and technology program.

Cook added that the campus would look at bringing in mobile equipment for the various labs to help with the flexibility.

“We’re not building classrooms specific for a program,” Cook said. “We’re leaving them as flexible spaces with mobile equipment, so we can meet our needs as programs change and evolve over the next few years.”

Mogan said the addition will help meet the needs of the school for the next five to six years.

DeJohn gave a rough estimate of $3 million for the construction of the addition with another 20 percent on top for professional fees and furniture. The district has already paid $97,836 in architect fees for the original plans for a classroom addition that was put on hold in June.

Construction would likely take 12 to 14 months.

“If we were to get the approval to move forward, it’d take six to eight weeks to finish the drawings and then a month to bid,” DeJohn said. “That would put you into March. Then 12 to 14 months would put you at the beginning of 2020 is when you’d be complete. That’s me pulling numbers and dates out of the air.”

Trustee Charles Tibbels expressed some concern and asked if the addition is a “short-term fix.” He questioned fellow trustees about a need for a bond package.

Board Vice President Rex Hoskins, who led Monday’s meeting, said it was probably not the time to go to voters.

“We have some seed money. I don’t think personally we could float a bond issue period. It’s not a good time for us financially, with the stock markets and everything else. It’s an unknown right now,” Hoskins said. “We do need the classrooms. If we can get these 12 classrooms, that will start us.”

Superintendent Judi Whitis was encouraged by the meeting and the reception of the plans by the board, which were drafted by reviewing enrollment data and program demands and the demographic reports from Templeton Demographics.

“This is a positive step. It’s affirmation of what we can do when we all work together. I’m pleased with what’s to come,” Whitis said.

“Our information is solid because it’s based on data and programs. The public can have confidence in this.”

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