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BOLIVIA—Renovate or rebuild?
That was what was on the minds of school officials at a meeting March 6.
The Brunswick school board and staff has reached the stage in their facilities master plan discussion where gathering information turned to cherry picking the best ideas at the latest meeting with consultants KBR Building Group.
In February, KBR made building upgrade recommendations based on interviews with 359 Brunswick County students, parents, administrators and elected officials.
The consultants worked through fall 2012 holding information-gathering meetings.
They used the needs described to create the six options presented to the school board and staff, which ranged from keeping all existing school buildings and renovating or adding facilities, to replacing all facilities except the newest elementary and middle school buildings.
The cost of those options ranged from an estimate of $143 million just for renovations to $257 million for replacement buildings.
Superintendent Edward Pruden said the goal of the latest master plan meeting is to cut down from six options to three.
But the ideas that stood out to officials coalesced into one option.
Pruden emphasized the school system is still in the determining needs stage; nothing has been decided or agreed upon.
Facilities director Steve Miley said the school system could get 25 more years out of most of its current buildings, so officials should consider remodeling the interiors.
“The buildings are worth preserving,” he said.
The group discussed shuffling the school buildings in North Brunswick, where they expect the most population increases in the future.
Lincoln Elementary was unanimously described as a facility at the end of its lifespan.
While looking for ways to work around a lack of space to expand at North Brunswick High School, school board member John Thompson endorsed a proposal to relocate Lincoln Elementary into Leland Middle School, moving the middle school into North Brunswick’s buildings after a new high school is built.
“That keeps students in the buildings until the new high school is built,” he said.
“Re-purposing North Brunswick High School is a good thing, we’ve got to find new property but it kills a lot of birds with one stone,” Miley said.
Career and technology education programs would expand in the high schools instead of relocating to a single facility, but the group considered reconfiguring classroom space in each of the high school buildings to promote new teaching methods allowing for lectures, group activities and individual learning areas.
In the South and West Brunswick high schools, the board and consultants considered building new gyms with increased seating capacity, then re-purposing the old gyms into auditoriums.
Pruden said another possibility to consider is partnering with Brunswick Community College for a new building on the campus.
The new building would house the early college high school and a new program—an early college middle school. The programs would expand for students in grades 6-12.
One goal included in every option eliminated all portable classrooms by the time new or renovated buildings are completed.
Miley said whatever ideas are chosen to go into the master plan, they are looking, overall, at a 10-year project.
The board and consultants also batted around ballpark numbers for a potential bond referendum.
“The last bond referendum, which was largely making due with patchwork (repairs) was $84 million,” board member John Thompson said.
Pruden said the next referendum could cost 50 percent more than the last, putting it around $150 million.
Miley added that to make a referendum successful the school system would need to provide benefits in every area of the county.
The next step for the consultants is to gather the ideas that stood out in the discussions into one proposal to bring to the board of education at a March 19 meeting.
“I see this morphing into a presentation for the general public,” Thompson said.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.