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BoE to get new RES floor plans soon
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Floor plan designs for a new Rincon Elementary School could be in the Effingham County School System’s hands soon.

The Board of Education has projected opening the new Rincon Elementary in August 2017. Slade Helmly, director of administrative services, said once the floor plan is finalized, the building pad can be planned and site work can commence.

“It takes a long time to design a school,” he said.

Groundbreaking for the new Rincon Elementary School may three to four months away, he said. That should not delay its anticipated opening, Helmly added.

“I would also say it’s an optimistic timeline,” he said. “But we’re optimistic.”

The cost for a new Rincon Elementary could be $18 million, and Helmly said the final total may not reach that figure.

“You may have some savings from that $18 million,” he told school board members. “That’s a large number.”

The Rincon Elementary School replacement was one of the items on the re-approved education-special local option sales tax.

Last November, Effingham voters approved the fifth edition of the E-SPLOST with a 75 percent approval. Among the items to be funded under the sales tax proceeds are the Effingham College and Career Academy science, technology, engineering and mathematics addition and improvements at several schools.

Also on the E-SPLOST wish list are an agriculture center, air conditioning for school buses, improvements to the high school tracks and elementary school security vestibules.

School board members soon may start to look at what projects they want to accomplish first under the reapproved E-SPLOST.

“We need to prioritize these at some point shortly,” said Board of Education Chairman Lamar Allen. “All of them would not be feasible money-wise. But we could do a good many of them right now.”

A new playground at Ebenezer Elementary has been constructed and is in use.

“The kids were really excited to be there,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

Shearouse added the system expects to have security vestibules at its elementary schools within a few months.

“We should have something sooner rather than later,” he said.

Slade Helmly, director of administrative services for the school system, met with Pope Construction about the vestibules. He said an itemized list and costs could be provided within a few weeks.

“Within a month, we could have something to take action on,” he said.

Helmly added the company could complete the work at a school over a weekend, but that timeline may be optimistic.

Work on the STEM academy is under way, and the building is expected to cost about $7 million. School board members approved a maximum price of $6,988,368 at their Nov. 30 meeting.

“The STEM academy is a big part of what we’re doing in the future,” said Shearouse.

Replacing the HVAC system at Effingham County High School will take between $1 million and $1.5 million in local funding, and the school system is expecting to get $1.4 million in state money.

Replacing heating and air conditioning units at Effingham County High School will be done in two phases. The units can be replaced every 10 years through a state grant. The first phase is expected to replace the units serving the cafeteria, commons area, gymnasium, locker rooms and labs, in addition to most of the classrooms.

The school system routinely buys eight buses annually for a total cost of approximately $1 million but it could put air conditioning on the entire fleet of nearly 140 buses for around $1 million. The fleet is in good shape, since the school system continued to replenish its stock even during the economic downturn.

Improvements at the two high schools’ tracks could wind up costing more than the projected $300,000, Shearouse cautioned. The two schools do not host track meets and must travel to other schools for events. Shearouse said the system explored one method of repairing the tracks but deemed it would not be feasible and would not last 15 years.

However, the school system may spend less than the projected $750,000 on the security vestibules, the superintendent added. Plus, the ag center may come in under the expected $2 million and the field house planned for ECHS also might not cost a projected $2 million.
Allen said the E-SPLOST to-do list needs to include tennis courts at Ebenezer Middle. Currently, EMS uses the tennis courts at the Baker Pond recreational facility.

Bathrooms for special needs students are being planned for South Effingham Middle. That project could be completed over spring break or in the first part of the summer vacation, Helmly said.

The new ESPLOST is capped at $60 million over five years, meaning if the proceeds hit that level before the five years is up, the tax stops.

Receipts for the current extra penny tax have picked up since a five-month slide in the beginning of 2015. The current SPLOST projects $650,000 in receipts each month, and the intake for July-October was about $144,000 more than expected. November’s receipts, though, were more than $47,000 under projections. The November 2014 receipts were more than $724,000.

The current Rincon Elementary was built in 1962. Its replacement, to be built wholly with local funds, will have enough room for 1,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The school system has 41 acres on Fort Howard Road on which to build the new school.