School renovations still under discussion

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Elementary school renovations at Bacon District and Phenix continue to be a topic following November meetings of the Charlotte County School Board and the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS).

“The purpose of being placed on the agenda was to bring information back as requested by the Board of Supervisors,” said Charlotte County Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard, during a November regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

She said the Board of Supervisors are currently undergoing a base contract for $3.2 million for Bacon Elementary and Phenix Elementary.

Leonard said the main purpose is to address removing the mobile units at Phenix Elementary to get students in a secure building and provide a gym at both elementary schools.

She said it was a base project.

“From that, the Board of Supervisors asked that we do some research on what it would take to bring Bacon and Phenix Elementary Schools up to a 15 plus year life expectancy,” said Leonard.

She said the focus was on security, handicap accessibility and overall health and environment of the schools.

“We knew we were limited on resources …” said Leonard.

Phillip Jamerson, Jamerson-Lewis Construction asked everyone to keep in mind the presented proposed plans were only the beginning of the process.

“We are still vetting certain things …” he said.

Jamerson said both buildings would be able to be locked down and all restrooms would be handicap accessible.

He also addressed the repair of roof leaks, mechanical systems, functionality and operational efficiency among other items.

Jamerson said based on the needs, a list of building improvements was created, costing upward $6.5 million.

He said an architect has not been engaged at this point.

Jamerson also said playground areas could also be fenced in.

“ … if someone’s going to harm children and they know their schedules and they know at certain times they go to the playground, and all the security is oriented toward that one area … where’s that bad person going to go?” asked Phenix/Aspen Supervisor Donna Fore. “ … to the playground.”

During the meeting, Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Walker also expressed personal concerns involving county spending.

“As my two year term as Chairman of your Board of Supervisors comes to an end, I feel that I must make you the taxpayers of Charlotte aware of where we stand,” said Walker previously.

He said in his beliefs, he was not representing the Board of Supervisors, but only himself.

“As you know, the county borrowed $6 million for the school system to pay to replace the HVAC system at Eureka Elementary, buy 17 new buses and to repair the roof and make other repairs at Randolph-Henry,” said Walker at that time.

He also said the debt service for those projects would be about $525,000 each year and the board recently voted to spend over $3 million on an addition to Phenix Elementary School.

Walker previously said the debt service would be $325,000 a year for that project.

“That project does not address most of the structural issues in the existing building which will have to be financed in the future,” he said previously.

“I would like to point out that under his leadership, (the) situation at Eureka was declared an “emergency” and BOS took over (the) Project. In July 2017 they borrowed $6.1 million to fix Eureka, buy buses and make some repairs at R-HHS (Randolph-Henry High School),” said Wylliesburg/ Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni.

She said the situation is most sad for the children who attend Bacon District Elementary.

“In December 2017 BOS Chairman Walker presented that 400,000 was left over and could be used to build two gyms – one at Phenix and one at Bacon. Dr. Leonard was part of that presentation,” said Pierantoni. “By spring of this year we had moved to the 3 million request (later up to $3.211 million) to build 8 classrooms at Phenix, a gym, and a gym at Bacon. (The) push has been on to borrow 3.211 million.”

Pierantoni said she has tried to encourage joint workshop sessions between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board.

“As a Board we approved the $3.211 (million) for gyms and Phenix classrooms but requested that the School Board come back to us with a plan to give Bacon and Phenix at least a 15 year life. We have requested a joint workshop with them,” said Pierantoni. “ … In my opinion, I feel this is a well orchestrated plan to leave Bacon without.”

Following a November meeting of the Charlotte County School Board, which occurred following the November meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Leonard said a meeting to move the conversation forward was requested.“The School Board requested that the Board of Supervisors representatives from Bacon and Phenix meet with the Bacon and Phenix School Board representatives to discuss needed school improvements,” she said. “This is for the purpose of moving the conversation forward and not having the conversation stall with the Board of Supervisors.”

In an email sent to the Board of Supervisors and County Administrator Daniel Witt, Pierantoni said the Supervisors voted to have a joint meeting with all members of the two Boards.

“This is an insult to our request,” said Pierantoni. “All members of both Boards need to meet and discuss. If anyone would think it should be limited to a few members, don’t you think they would include the districts that send children to these schools …”