A significant amount of improvements to Dothan’s public schools will need to be made in a short amount of time and the school board will be asked to fund those improvements next week.
The Dothan City Board of Education received a comprehensive review of repair, maintenance, and reconfiguration needs at each of the city’s schools. Many of those repairs and reconfiguration plans must be complete before the 2019-20 school year begins in August due to the board’s vote in November to reconfigure the school system.
The board will be asked next week to authorize the superintendent to engage in a $15 million bond issue to fund many of the improvements. Additionally, the system could leverage an additional $5 million to $7 million through energy savings that can be put toward more improvements.
The board will vote Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 5 p.m. at its regularly scheduled meeting at Beverlye Magnet School.
With the board’s approval, system officials can engage an architectural and engineering firm to develop plans for each school and begin the process of bidding the work. Further, a comprehensive energy audit would be conducted to identify how much savings could be realized if the schools moved to LED lighting, replaced some underperforming HVAC equipment, and changed other older systems that use large amounts of electricity compared to newer models. Under what is known as a “performance contract,” the system could use the guaranteed savings toward repairs without spending any additional money.
Priorities outlined during a Thursday school board work session were as follows:
» Roof issues: The report indicates many of Dothan’s schools have roofs that leak in places. Those leaks are leading to mold issues in some schools. Roof replacements at some schools are considered high priority, while roofs at most other schools in the system are believed to have a life span of between five and 10 years. Money will be needed to replace some roofs, repair all leaks, and fix any mold issues.
» Reconfigured schools: Money will need to be spent to configure schools to their new purposes. Some additional classrooms will need to be configured from areas that have been serving other purposes at some schools. Further, areas will need to be repurposed to coincide with the schools’ new academic themes. For example, two new computer labs are planned for the Carver School for Math, Science, and Technology.
» ADA compliance: Restrooms and access at most schools will need to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Schools with more than one floor will need an elevator.
Overall, more than $25 million in capital improvements have been identified at the system’s schools. The review also identified an additional $26 million in deferred maintenance.
“We know this is a multi-year, multi-tier capital improvement plan,” said Jeff Prine, consultant for Dothan City Schools. “We know it can’t all be done at one time.”
School Board Chairman Mike Schmitz said many of the improvements, however, are long overdue.
“I’m proud we’re doing this. I know we’re probably 20 years behind, but our kids deserve the best.”
Board member Susan Vierkandt emphasized that a wet 2018 made leaking issues more severe.
“These water issues are just going to get worse and worse,” Vierkandt said.
The board’s approval will allow the firms to identify the improvements that must take place before the new school year, get the necessary permits, bid and begin work.