Ten members of the twelve member Site Selection Committee were on hand for Thursday’s kick off meeting that will ultimately decide on a location for a new Kate Smith Elementary School in Chipley.
Members of the committee include Washington County School Board members Terry Ellis and Milton Brown, County Commissioner Alan Bush, former School Superintendent Calvin Stevenson, Chipley City Administrator Dan Miner, Kate Smith Educator Cathy Peel, Chipley businessman Javier Valdovinos who has children attending the school, Bonnie Lindsey who also has children attending Kate Smith, School system staff members Mike Park and Beth Arnold, and School Superintendent Joe Taylor.
Opening the meeting Mike Park said the local school district has been approved for a replacement for Kate Smith Elementary School by the Florida Department of Education, but no one is sure when the funding will become available. He added that the funding may well be spread over three years. That information should come in August 2013.
School Board member Terry Ellis said while the district has been visited before in regards to the school replacement, they’ve never made the cut until now. He said this time the committee approved KSES without hesitation.
In a letter received in October 2012 a new Kate M. Smith Elementary School was described as a critical need for the county. The decision was based on the antiquated condition of the existing building; numerous ADA violations; student safety and health concerns, including exposed wiring and electrical conduits; as well as protruding metal and concrete surfaces among numerous other issues.
Ellis said now that the district has been approved for a new school, it is important that everything be put on the fast track to have completed plans when the they have to be presented to the Special Facilities Construction Account Committee in August 2013. The soonest that procurement of the funds needed to build the new school will be during the 2014 Legislative Session.
Mike Park said, “We want to be ready when the funding is available.” He added that the district will be at the mercy of the Legislature when funding does become available.
Park said as soon as the local committee selects a site, the school district will advertise for engineering services.
Ellis said there are architects who might already have approved plans for an elementary school and those plans could just be adjusted to meet the Washington County District’s needs.
Discussing possible plans committee members voiced their concerns dealing with the safety of the students. Ellis said they will want to limit access to the campus for security reasons.
Committee members were given aerial photos of the three locations currently under consideration. The three properties are:
* No. 1 .. 1386 Forrest Avenue (Property where Kate Smith Elementary currently sits.)
* No. 2 … 20.38 acres between South Boulevard and Brickyard Road, across from CHS/RMS.
* No. 3 … Land which is south of Brickyard Road and is currently being used as agriculture property by the FFA at Chipley High School.
The committee members were asked to visit the possible sites and be prepared to discuss them at the next Site Selection Committee meeting set for 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 3rd.
The West end of the current Kate M. Smith Elementary School property in Chipley. School system officials weren’t sure it would be a good idea to build on the current campus, although there is a good deal of school district-owned land West of the existing school.