The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 22, 2013

Board approves $66.6M long-term wish list

By Kim West

— The Limestone County Board of Education recently approved a five-year, state-mandated capital plan, with $66.6 million in projects that range from an $8 million expansion of the Career Technical Center to building new elementary schools at West Limestone and Elkmont.

Board members Bret McGill, Earl Glaze, Anthony Hilliard, Charles Shoulders, James Shannon and Darin Russell voted to accept the plan, which can be updated each year. Board member Marty Adams voted against the measure because a previous plan sent to the state called for Elkmont to receive a new elementary earlier than the 2017 date on the current plan. Adams also disagreed with removing Owens Elementary from the list of high-priority projects.

“In October 2011, we voted for three projects — one we’re doing and two we’re not,” Adams said. “The other problem I have is we have completely moved (Owens) off the table and an Elkmont elementary (has been delayed).”

Limestone Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk said he would seek input from the board in the coming months to decide the best way to address building needs, in particular at Owens, West Limestone, Elkmont and Tanner.

“In the next year, there are a number of decisions that I’m going to ask for guidance,” Sisk said during the Sept. 10 board meeting. “Is it more fiscally responsible to build two smaller elementary schools, or a larger elementary school? Do we subsume Owens into a larger West Limestone Elementary?

“I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not opposed to two (new) elementary schools but those would be two separate cost centers. Do we spend $13 million apiece, or $16 million for one state-of-the-art facility that is wireless ready and we already own the property for it?”

The superintendent assured the board that the capital plan sent to the state is more than just a required document. He said there is enough flexibility to update the plan based on the system’s priorities and capital funding.

“I don’t have the time, money or desire to put together a document to the state that does not have any meaning,” Sisk said. “I don’t want to waste the time on a paper exercise. I want it to be meaningful and purposeful and effective.

“I want to work at the will of the board. We can change that plan every year, and we have.”

Sisk said Transportation Director Darryl Adams would conduct a study to determine the bus route distances for different school configurations.

“The bottom line is that I’ll let Darryl Adams do the study and get (the board) the information,” Sisk said.

Sisk said community meetings and careful consideration of criteria would be part of any future process for studying the combining of schools.

“I think a lot of study needs to go into it besides transportation,” Marty Adams said.