As the Hall County School Board finalizes a 10-year facility plan, members of the board Monday took a tour of some of the oldest elementary schools in the district, realizing some of those schools will have to be replaced in the near future.
Superintendent Will Schofield and administrators who oversee the district's school campuses have been talking with board members for a couple of years about the fact that many of the aging school buildings - elementary schools in particular - are past the point of repair.
"We have an incredible maintenance crew that fixes and fixes and then fixes again, but it certainly is time that we look, particularly at our elementary space...at schools that really are in need of being replaced with new space," Schofield said.
Schofield acknowledged that replacing any schools - some more than 60-years-old - will be an expensive venture.
"What we're talking about is the potential of a quarter of a billion dollars of construction to update all of our facilities, but the primary focus will be elementary space," Schofield said. "That is going to require us going to the general public and asking to pass a referendum for a government obligation bond."
Schofield said he anticipates the board will also ask for an extension on the one-penny ESPLOST for schools at the same time, hopefully in March 2020.
Mark Pettitt, who only took office in January, said at the mid-way point of Monday's tour, he was getting a clearer picture of what Schofield and other board members have been seeing for years.
"It's very educational for me as a board member to see the status and condition of our schools," Pettit said at the end of the tour at McEver Arts Academy, which was originally built in 1956. "Most of the buildings that we've toured so far today have similarities in that they're about the same age...and so a lot of them have the same challenges with plumbing issues, roofing issues, small common areas such as media centers, cafeterias, kitchens."
Schofield said while the need to replace some schools is clear, he understands there will be emotions involved when it comes to tearing down a school and building a new one.
"We've been very careful not to talk about 'well, possibly we'd think about this school or that school' because there will be a lot of emotion involved," Schofield said. ""Once this board comes to a comfort level with what we believe the 10-year facility plan looks like, we'll put that all out there at once."
Schofield said he anticipates the board will release the 10-year plan to the public in the next month or so.