Meridian Star

February 6, 2013

County schools to undergo structural upgrades

By Ida Brown /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Plans for handicap accessibility upgrades and restroom renovations at Lauderdale County Public School District's eight campuses were set in motion during a special called meeting of the district's Board of Education.

    The two projects were among four designated as top priority by Gary Bailey, a consultant with Bailey Education Corporation, which is based in Jackson. Bailey was hired by the LCSD board to conduct a facility study of the district's eight campuses, which includes 12 schools.

    Upgrading the campuses' handicap accessibility was stressed by Bailey as needing immediate attention.

    "Avoiding it would put you in potential stress points if someone chooses to litigate you," Bailey said at the Monday meeting.

    Cost of the project is estimated at $638,000, the greatest amount going to installing an elevator at Clarkdale High School.

    Restroom renovations is the more costly of the two projects – $4.7 million. More than 60 restrooms throughout the school district are in need of major work.

    "This works out to about $73,000 per restroom and each of the campuses will virtually have brand new restrooms – new floors, new walls, new partitions, new fixtures, hyper-exhaust fans, lights," Bailey said.

    The projects will be funded with reserved funds.

    "We've been looking at the need for taking care of this for years," said Lauderdale County School District Superintendent Randy Hodges. "We just felt that we couldn't delay it any longer and we did have the money in reserve."

    The project is expected to take 18 months and is tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of the school year. Arjen Lagendijk Architect PLLC is the general contractor.

    "We hope the timing is convenient enough that we're finished with state tests, that's in late May," Hodges said. "We would be able to start construction immediately when school dismisses and do as much as we can during the summer months. Knowing that it is a long project, it will continue into next fall when the new school year begins."

    Rounding out the priority list are re-roofing and canopy replacements and increased classroom space.

    The re-roofing/canopy replacement project is estimated to cost $4.3 million, however, Bailey noted that it did not have to be completed at one time.

    "They are in similar conditions on the campuses, but I think we could go through and prioritize those and stair-step those over a three- to eight-year process," he said.

    An estimated $6.8 million will be needed for additional classrooms. The numbers needed varies from campus to campus, with West Lauderdale Middle School requiring the highest – 18. Bailey said this project could also be prioritized.

    In additional to building projects, Bailey also recommended that the board begin budgeting $200,000 to $300,000 each year to save for district roof repairs and other capitol needs.

    "Make it a budgeted item so that you're not having to be in a crisis situation to fix your roofs," he said. "Save for three or four years and you've got a fund built up to where you can go to do needed repairs."