News Sports Opinion Photos Social Classified Obits Contact
Rendering by McKee and Associates

Finalizing plans on new high school

By Leigh Anne Butler

The ongoing discussion about building a new high school is in the final stages.  Tallassee City Schools superintendent Wade Shipman stated, “As long as everything continues to line up, I feel this is going to happen.  If this is important enough to the school board and the city council, this (project) will move forward.”

The plan is to build a new high school where the existing 1929 high school structure is located on Barnett Blvd.  The current annex building on the front of the campus, as well as the cafeteria and two gyms on the back of the campus will remain.  The new construction will encompass new classrooms, media center, offices, a 636-seat auditorium, as well as a new band and choral facility.

“The conversations we’ve had with the city have been very positive.  If we continue on the path we are, then it’s going to happen,” Shipman continued.  “We have passed a recommendation within our school board to adopt a schematic of what we want to do.  What we’ve tried to do is consider everything the city has requested as far as safety and security.  The architects and construction management company presented the plans to a subcommittee that included some members of the city council, our attorney, the city’s attorney and a few others.  I think the city was pleased with what they saw and so we’ve begun talking about the next step, which is acquiring bond money to accomplish this.”

The construction is estimated to cost $19.1 million.  The 36,790 square foot high school building is estimated at $7.7 million.  The auditorium is projected to cost an additional $4.1 million.  The band/choir facility will be $2.3 million.  Professional services and other fees run the overall total to just over $19 million.

“The project is roughly $19 million, which includes the site work that we have already started,” Shipman explained.  “We want to fund part of that with bond money; about $15 million of it.  The other part comes from money we have available to us as well as money we are putting in from our bottom line.

“The state creates a new bond program about every ten years that helps school systems with capital school projects within their systems.  The plan is to commit that money to this project.

 “Anytime you spend that kind of money, risks are a concern. We’ve had these discussions with our school board and city council members.  It may look like we have a lot of money sitting there but a lot of that money is dependent on support from the city.  If the situation changes, the ability to balance our budget becomes more difficult.  We have some risks, there is no doubt about it but we’ve brought (the estimate) down to a figure that we feel we can live with.  We can’t predict everything that could possibly happen to our economy but we feel comfortable with this amount, more than we have with any other previous plans.”
Locating the new high school in the same location as the existing school brought the cost estimate down.  The cost to build on another site would possibly be in the $30 million range.  By keeping and saving existing buildings like the annex, cafeteria and gyms, the estimate to build the new facility is lowered. 

Shipman added that in addition to the cost savings, “the location of where the existing school is located in the community and being able to keep it there is really important to the integrity of our community.  It is the focal point of our city.  One of the reasons we are looking architecturally at building it back, is it is going to look almost identical to the existing school.  I think people are going to be really pleased with what we do.”

There are still issues, such as portable classroom placement and school calendar adjustments that are on-going discussions.  “We will set up portable classrooms around our campus,” Shipman explained.  “Right now the thought is maybe towards the band practice field.  We are still working on some other options.  We’ve talked about setting some up on parking areas but that is still to be determined.

“This feels like to time to get this done,” Shipman ended.  “Sometimes there are opportunities to do things and it is the time to do them.  We’ve put some work into this and we’ve laid out a plan and it feels like it is the time to move forward.”  

Photo by Kyle Thornton