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Plans picking up pace for new high school in Hall
Board will consider architect, construction manager for South Hall project
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Work toward the District 7 middle and high schools in Hall County is expected to officially start March 28 when an architect and construction manager will be recommended for the “big” construction project that will move South Hall Middle School back to its former building.

That would be the first domino toward creating a District 7 for middle and high schools in South Hall County.

Three building projects are required before the expected opening of a new high school in 2018-19. That school would be in the current Flowery Branch High School on Spout Springs Road.

The current facility for the Academies of Discovery will become South Hall Middle School, with up to 1,500 students — and retain the Da Vinci Academy and World Language Academy.

Major construction will include an expected two-story classroom building and reworking the traffic flow for buses and cars.

The present Davis Middle School on Hog Mountain Road will again become Flowery Branch High School.

The campus will have added parking, a field house and weight room facility, improved stadium field and interior renovations for programs.

The third project would be restoring the current Flowery Branch High to a grades 6-12 middle-high school campus.

It would require a field house and weight room and baseball field. Flowery Branch now uses the baseball field adjacent to Davis Middle School.

Other construction projects planned include a field house for West Hall High School — the current field house would be used for visitor football teams and other sports; upgrading security at the central office to provide for card access to the building and improved visibility for front office reception; phasing out Jones Elementary and make the facility home to specialty programs, including an international center and early college.

All of the projects except the central office security would be paid for through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V funds, Superintendent Will Schofield said. Matt Cox, executive director of facilities, said the estimated cost for the central office work is about $80,000. That would come from the system’s general fund maintenance operations.

“Anybody who’s angry ends up in this building,” Schofield said, emphasizing the need for more security.

Craig Herrington, board vice chair, asked about a performing arts center for Johnson High School, which has been on the drawing board. He noted the performing arts center would “tie together” the school’s main building and the gym.

Schofield said that performing arts center is on hold until the costs of the other projects are known. The SPLOST may not generate enough money to pay for all the projects.

The board also heard a recommendation — and it will be on the March 28 agenda — to buy 14 acres adjacent to East Hall High School. The proposed sale price is $113,000.

Schofield said the campus “has nowhere to go” now for any additional space. “It may be years before we use it,” he said about the new property.

Cox told the board that projects at East Hall High and North Hall High are nearing completion.  East Hall is mostly improving bus traffic flow plus adding a greenhouse, and North Hall is getting a performing arts center.

Cox said both projects should be nearly complete by April 1. He said North Hall High is planning an open house for the performing arts center April 28.

In other business

• Lee Lovett, deputy superintendent, reported the revenue for SPLOST has been gradually increasing. He noted that receipts for February are up each year since 2013. For 2016, he said, February revenue was $1,733,666.

• Schofield said the “big story for the fiscal year ’17 budget” will be pay increases for employees. He said it will cost about $5 million to provide a 3 percent pay increase for all employees and another $1.5 million for “step” increases for certified employees. The system expects to pay about $5 million of that from its “rainy” day fund.

• Budget work sessions are planned April 11, April 25 and May 16. The board would adopt its tentative budget May 23, and the final budget and millage rate would be set June 27.

• The board approved a dual-language immersion program to start in August at White Sulphur Elementary School.

It will start in kindergarten and “roll up” one year at a time. The school has a pre-K program now with 22 students, and it expects to have enough students for at least one class in the new program, Principal Betsy Ainsworth said.

The school has about half its students who speak Spanish and about half who speak English.

Ainsworth said the school intends to start small and add to the classes if parents request it.

Schofield said he expects demand to be strong because children learn languages so much more quickly when they are young.

“Three to four years into this and both (language) groups are way ahead of their peers,” he said.

• The board tentatively agreed to hold its retreat May 6-7. Schofield said much of the retreat will be about expected construction projects.

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