With just two weeks to go until students in Forsyth County head back to school for the start of the 2019-20 academic year, school officials say that the system's various construction projects are progressing at a good pace.
At Tuesday's meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Education, school system Director of Construction Tom Wening updated board members on the current state of the school system’s most “critical” construction projects.
According to Wening, in just a few quick months "significant progress" has been made on the county’s newest elementary school, Poole’s Mill Elementary, which is proposed to open in August of 2020.
"So just a few months ago we were groundbreaking, already now the structure and superstructure is complete ... already brick is going to start installation next week, just to give you a feel for how fast that's moving," he said.
Wening said that construction is also quickly progressing on the security vestibules that are being constructed at all of the county’s existing elementary schools.
"We are simultaneously working now on 18 elementary schools," he said. "The challenge obviously was ... each of the elementary school vestibules, while we do have some prototypes and a couple of duplications, for the most part you have 18 different unique functions, structures, dimensions, colors, aesthetics.”
Contractors for the project are reportedly obligated to complete the vestibules by December, but Wening said they are hopeful the project will be completed within the next month.
At Forsyth Central High School, Wening said that construction of the school’s new stadium will also be nearing completion in the next month.
Restrooms and concession stands are in the finishing stages this week, locker rooms will be completed in the next couple of weeks and installation of the new grandstands will begin by the end of July.
Overall, he said that the stadium project is slated for completion by the end of August, just in time for the start of fall sports.
Also discussed was the construction of East Forsyth High School and the new classroom addition at West Forsyth High School. Wening said that with some expected hiccups, both projects are progressing and on track.
Petition for annexation approved
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Director of Facilities Planning Tim Amerson presented board members with a petition for annexation that, if accepted, would bring the entire Board of Education campus on Dahlonega Highway into the city of Cumming.
While most of the campus is already within city limits, according to Amerson about eight acres of the property lies within the county, land that is slated for construction of a new performing arts center and academy for creative education.
Amerson said that the conflict was discovered during their permitting and review process for the construction and the annexation would be more of a formality than anything.
"We did get confirmation through the county planning and development office that this would be a city-permitted review project, and the city accepted it,” he said. “But to make sure that we're legal and appropriate, we should have it all under the city."
During a short discussion, Board Chairwoman Kristin Morrissey stated that this is not the first time that the system has had to deal with an annexation as part of their construction process.
After the discussion, the petition was unanimously approved.
Amerson said that the petition will now go before the city of Cumming and Forsyth County Board of Commissioners for final approval sometime in the future.
Security upgrades approved
Board members unanimously approved a $1 million proposal to increase security at county schools and school facilities by upgrading and expanding the number of access-controlled doorways in the school system.
In a presentation by Safety and Climate Coordinator David Feuerbach, board members were told that in conjunction with the school safety task force and various school system departments, school safety staff have put together a plan to upgrade and add at least 250 "access points" or badge-controlled doorways at county schools.
"This increase in number of access points throughout the buildings in our system was a recommendation by the Forsyth County School Safety Task Force after walk-throughs during the second semester of the 2017-18 school year," Feuerbach said. "At the macro-level, this initiative is motivated by the on-going emphasis to expand and enhance the overall safety of all FCS schools and facilities."
According to Feuerbach, through the company A3 Communications and a new security platform, the school system was able to test the new doorways at Brandywine Elementary School, and were pleased by its efficiency and interactive software system.
"The S2 software provides greater tools and resources to FCS safety and school-based staff to monitor, set, control and report,” he said. “In fact, this system offers much greater user control for increased effectiveness and efficiency and is capable of seamless interaction with the new and upgraded Avigilon camera system that we put in this school year."
Feuerbach said that the 250 new access-controlled doorways were identified by administrators at each of the county’s schools and in the future the doorways will be standard for all new construction.
Funding for this project will come primarily from the 2019 State of Georgia School Security Grant that allocated $30,000 per school, he said. The remainder will be funded by the School Bond that was approved by voters in May of 2018, which included more than $7 million for school security upgrades.
"What's nice about that is, combining that with our bond money makes both funds go so much farther,” Morrissey said after the presentation. “So we greatly appreciate the state government giving us that and the flexibility to figure out what was the best was to use it."
After a short discussion, the project was unanimously approved by board members.
Feuerbach said the project will take nearly a year to complete and will be implemented in multiple phases beginning with the conversion of existing doors and moving toward the addition of the new doors requiring access control.