AMS to close by fall 2014

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, March 27, 2012


After months of considerations, the Andalusia Board of Education voted 4-1 to move forward with a capital plan to close Andalusia Middle School and build new wings at the high school and elementary school.

Superint-endent Ted Watson said he had spoken to teachers and administrators at all three schools.

“Supervision is the biggest concern among them,” he said.

Watson also presented figures from SRJ, a Georgia firm that was brought in at the request of board member Joe Nix, to give a cost analysis on renovating the existing AMS facilities as opposed to building the separate wings.

Previously Joe Donofro, an architect who is currently working on the system’s new physical education facility, told the board it would cost $1.34 million to build a wing at Andalusia Elementary School with 10 classrooms and a multipurpose room.

According to numbers presented to the board by Watson, SRJ had a projected cost of $1.876 million for the elementary school.

“(The architect’s) numbers were skewed because they were significantly bigger than Donofro’s,” Watson said. “So I did the math to make them equal in square footage.”

To build the seventh and eighth grade wing Donfro projects a cost $2.15 million, and SRJ projects a cost of $3.01 million.

To renovate AMS, Donofro estimated it would cost $2.05 million, while SRJ estimated $3.5 million.

Watson recommended to the board that it build in accordance with its capital plan.

Nix, the only member voting nay, said he had spoken with the architect at SRJ on Monday morning and she asked for correct square footage for the middle school, so she could give appropriate estimates.

“At one time she was advised there was 50,000 square foot, but when she came she noted there was about 70,000 square foot,” Nix said. “I don’t think we have apples-to-apples here. Mr. Donofro has been more privileged. SRJ has more experience with school construction.”

Nix also said SRJ never had an opportunity to present its findings with the board.

“I think we need a level playing field, especially when dealing with federal money,” he said.

Nix also brought up the issue that said based on a Star-News’ poll, the majority is in favor of something other than building two new wings.

Board chairman Dr. Bill King told Nix that the reason the second architect was brought in for assessment was because the other board members believed that they did not have to bring every wing up to code.

“We never discussed doing one wing,” King said.

Nix said that renovating Andalusia Middle School would still cost less than building two new wings.

“Like Mr. Watson said earlier, we have to look at do we want to renovate an old building or build new,” King said. “It’s very attractive to me (to build new) because of the possibility of storm shelters.”

Nix said he still did not see the cost savings.

“You will still have the same personnel,” he said.

Board member Amy Dugger said she liked the idea of saving some $400,000 a year in utility costs.

“If we save a $100,000 a year, that is a teacher,” she said.

“But what about the utilities at the new buildings,” Nix said. “We are still responsible for those.”

The board gave Watson the authority to pursue plans for the new wings.

If all goes as planned, the new wings will be open fall 2014.

“As a board member, I am exited about the opportunity to look at new construction,” King said. “I think we can upgrade to the modern facility and have a better learning environment.

“We do realize parents and teachers are reluctant,” he said. “We thing the negatives are far outweighed by the positives.”