Shipman talks about future of THS
By Michael Butler
Tallassee City Schools superintendent Wade Shipman and the board of education have been reviewing facility improvement options at the high school for more than a year.
"In our capital plan is a plan for music building improvement," Shipman said. "Half our kids at the high school take band a choir. It's grossly outdated and is probably a third the size that it needs to be. Our auditorium seats maybe 450. We have 550 kids, so we don't have room for our entire student body."
The conversations for upgrades at the high school began with those issues, Shipman noted.
"Do we spend half a million to a million dollars on the campus where we are, because on the same capital plan is a plan that says $30 million for a new school. It doesn't say where we're getting the $30 million. My conversation with the board was we can't do anything about the music unless we have some decision made about the campus. Are we staying on the same campus or are we going to build somewhere else?"
$30 million is the magic number for constructing all new buildings for a high school campus.
"We probably wouldn't build all new athletic facilities because we've made improvements. We're good in those areas," Shipman added. "We're basically just building a school with gyms."
The $30 million figure would be needed upfront to do a complete one-phase makeover.
"It's probably best to keep it right where it is and build in phases," sais Shipman. "We've bought some property around the school. Our idea is to build a fine arts center with the corresponding buildings of a new band and choral wing on the east side of the campus. We're probably going to build right on the campus and extend over the road. We own property on both sides of road.
"We had this incident in Florida which has created a heightened alert for all the schools in the country. We have a lot of security concerns. The end concept of when we replace buildings is to connect our buildings."
Shipman presented renderings of what the campus might look like to the city council which is considering ways to help fund the proposed project. One cent of the city's sales tax is currently being applied to the schools netting approximately $1 million per year.
"A lot of this is in their hands now," Shipman said of the council. "I've asked them for Preer Street. I've asked them for the gullies that are pretty much worthless to the city at this point, but it may allow us to use it for parking or rearranging our band practice area."
The property on and surrounding the high school campus owned by the city school system is approximately 20 acres. If the performing arts center comes to fruition, Shipman would like to see the west wing annex of the school completed, then the main building of the high school.
"One of the requirements I placed on our architects was that it needs to have the look and feel of the existing building, so we're able to keep that history that goes with it."
Architect's rendering of what a new high school might look like
The school system has about $2 million in surplus, which Shipman would like to keep on reserve.
"Once the surplus is gone, it's gone. We're looking at tying our money up for 20 years or so. I don't want to leave Tallassee in a bad situation because of how we structured our debt."