Jackson County School Board sees how the proposed $72 million K-8 consolidation will look
By Bo McMullian
At a special meeting last week Jackson County School board members received the architect’s drawings of their proposed $72 million project that would consolidate Riverside Elementary, Golson Elementary and Marianna Middle School into one giant building complex to be located at the northwest corner of Caverns Road and State Road 71, next to the new Health Department. Architect Paul Donofro Jr., who is also a Marianna city commissioner, made the presentation; his firm agreed to do the plans at 30 percent of their costs, the remaining 70 percent to be remitted when the project is funded. The recent passage in Jackson County of the half-cent sales tax referendum is making the proposal more of a reality.
“With the passage of the referendum, it’s now a matter of when, not if,” Donofro told the TIMES after the meeting. “If that measure had not passed, the consolidation plans would be dead. The state requires a local effort and (about $8 million) of the costs could be funded by a portion of the sales tax revenues. The quickest possible scenario for the construction would provide for a moving in date of 2018, since the Legislature must decide whether to fund and the construction would take about two years.”
Schools Superintendent Steve Benton, first elected to the post in 2012, voiced his approval for the new building and consolidation back in October, 2013. Most school board members have joined the effort, especially since passage of the one-half cent (0.5 cent) mail ballot election which passed on May 6 by a vote of 5,117 to 2,327.
The new Jackson County K-8 school would contain 389,768 sq.ft., according to the architect’s plans. There would be room for a total of 2,300 students which is a slight increase over the estimated total students now enrolled at Riverside, Golson and MMS. There are about 1,000 students at Golson, and several hundred each at riverside and MMS. Preliminary plans for Riverside are for it to be the new Hope School facility for children with severe learning disabilities. Golson may be sold to the adjacent Jackson Hospital for hospital growth, it has been proposed. And there is talk of the estimated 15 acres of MMS to be traded to the city of Marianna. The city owns the 90-acre site on Caverns Road but may be willing to trade it to the school district for the MMS property, Donofro said. “However, we may make a stipulation that we won’t take that property unless all buildings except the gym are demolished,” he added.” That statement indicates a lot about the urgent need for new school buildings in Marianna, especially for MMS students. The city wants the gym for recreational use, Donofro said. The school board’s next step in this process is to select a construction management firm --based on qualifications, not monetary amount—which will in turn bid out contracts to subcontractors.
The Washington County School Board just got the Legislature and governor’s approval this year for funding of the new $33 million Kate M. Smith Elementary School in Chipley. The state will contribute $9.2 million and the county will spend $4.4 million in capital outlay funds over the course of the next three years. The TIMES interviewed the Jackson County School Board’s Facilities Director Stuart Wiggins Monday afternoon. He explained that the 4-0 vote by the school board on July 3 (School Board Member Chris Johnson was absent) was to “accept the Phase 3 drawings and the site location.” The $73 million figure is an estimate from the Florida Department of Education. After the selection of a construction firm, the school board will submit a request for funding to the DOE which will in turn submit a request to the Legislature, he said. He agreed with Donofro that the “Jackson K-8 Project,” as the school board is calling it, would take at least four years to complete.
Here are some other facts revealed in the architect’s plans for the proposed Jackson County K-8 school:
- The plans call for the construction of several interconnected buildings. That design was made so that each of the 120 or so teaching spaces, or classrooms, would have plenty of window space. The windows are for the psychological benefit of the students as well as the energy cost benefits of the use of natural light. So there are only two separate buildings proposed—the school and the gym.
- A new elementary school gym would be included as well as a gym for MMS.
- The buildings will be organized around a courtyard with an amphitheatre included.
- Parents will be able to use a special drive for drop-offs and pick-ups, and there will be a separate bus drop area.
- Superintendent Benton likes the idea of an eight-foot chain link fence all around the facility, for the safety of the children.
- Of course a modern media center (formerly known as a library) will be included as will a cafeteria that can seat up to 1,100.
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