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School board seeking improvements for middle school

The Lawrence County School Board met in a work session last week to hear options from architects and bond attorneys for the repair or replacement of Rod Paige Middle School.
Richard McNeel and Joey Henderson of JBHM Architecture presented an analysis of the condition of the school and options ranging from approximately $2 million to $20 million to fix the problems. The firm has over 50 years of experience in education design.
School officials asked the company to perform an analysis of the facility.
McNeel presented a power point presentation showing photos of issues at the school. The facility comprises approximately 62,000 square feet of space and parts of the campus are over 70 years old.
He pointed out cracks in the walls, foundation issues, ceiling tiles falling out of the ceiling because of the foundation problems, and the fact that the last HVAC renovations were done in the 1980s. There is also a problem with water in some of the exterior bricks.
Additionally, electric panels are located in student hallways, which does not meet current electrical code.
The foundation issues are caused by saturated ground under and around the school because water is unable to adequately run away from the building.
McNeel also pointed out several of the handicapped ramps and plumbing modifications are not built to current codes. There are mold and mildew issues in areas of the school, and it has single pane windows, which are not energy efficient.
McNeel and Henderson presented the following options to address the structural problems at the school and bring the facility up to code.
The most expensive option is to build a new middle school. The cost for that option is estimated to be $20-21 million, not including land costs. The architects said this option gives a totally new facility that is state of the art and efficient as measured by current school standards.
The second option involves extensive renovations at the current facility, including tearing down the fifth and sixth grade wing and replacing it. The cost of this option is $16-17 million and includes bringing in temporary classrooms to be used during the project. After the 5th and 6th grade wing is replaced, 7th and 8th grade students will be moved into the temporary classrooms, and a major renovation of that portion of the school will take place. A new common area in the plans will improve security by limiting entry access to one point and will also serve to eliminate many of the drainage problems that are contributing to the foundation issues. McNeel said everything will be brought up to current building codes but at the end of the day, the structure will still be 50-70 years old in part of the school. This scope of work will take place over three summers, as one stage must be completed before the next.
A third option presented is to abandon the school and convert Monticello Elementary School from K-4 to K-8. The cost for that project will be in the $17-18 million range.
Other plans presented are on a reduced scope of work and fall in the $6-8 million range.
The first option presented by Henderson is to move grades five and six to Monticello Elementary School, which will require additional classrooms. As part of this plan, grades seven and eight would either be transferred to New Hebron and Topeka-Tilton Attendance Centers, or Rod Paige would become a campus for only grades seven and eight. The architects pointed out that would be a very small school, which could present efficiency problems for the district.
An even smaller scope of work would require approximately $2 million to move 5th and 6th grades to Monticello Elementary School and leave seven and eight at Rod Paige. This plan is basically the same as the previous plan but spends less money. After additional classrooms are built on the MES campus, there will be very little left for renovations at Rod Paige. They pointed out that this option is really just a patch.
Any work that is done on the school will be subject to the Mississippi antiquities law. Renovations to any public building over 50 years old are required to be approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Read more in the June 10, 2020 E-Edition of the Lawrence County Press