School facilities were a major topic of conversation at Tuesday’s Baldwin County Board of Education retreat.
That’s because the Baldwin County School District has been conducting a needs assessment on its buildings and properties in order to prepare an ESPLOST (education special purpose local option sales tax) referendum to be placed before county voters in March when they vote in the presidential primary. Board members discussed and were presented information on the needs assessment, timelines and bond financing, and an ESPLOST campaign throughout the all-day meeting held locally on the Central Georgia Technical College campus.
The current ESPLOST Baldwin County is under (passed by voters in November 2015) is set to expire in 2021.
In August, the BOE awarded a contract for architectural services to South Georgia-based firm Altman & Barrett. Since then, representatives from the company have toured Baldwin County Schools’ various grounds and facilities to evaluate where improvements could be made. The needs assessment is merely an identification process and aids the board in creating language for the referendum so voters can know how the 1-cent sales tax funds would be spent if passed.
One area targeted is the now former Georgia State Patrol property located next to Baldwin High School along Ga. Highway 49. The BOE purchased that land recently to serve as a possible Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) of Oconee and/or alternative school site. The regional GNETS program, serving area severe emotional and behavioral disabled students, was formerly housed in Davis Elementary until it was found to be unfit a few years ago. Those students attending GNETS of Oconee from Baldwin County and surrounding counties returned to their own schools where they continue to receive services. The recent land purchase makes it a possibility that they will all be housed under one roof once again. That roof will likely not be the old GSP barracks after Altman & Barrett last month recommended to renovate that building to be used as office space, not to house GNETS or alternative school students due to its layout. The architectural firm instead recommended a new building be built on the old GSP property specifically for those student populations. School Superintendent Dr. Noris Price said Tuesday that that building would need to have around 15 classrooms, a cafeteria (just an eating space, not a full kitchen), and a playground for the younger students. A preliminary plan was presented at the retreat totaling about $2 million, but it will need to be amended to account for the alternative school students and the eating space.
The board is aiming to pass the ESPLOST language for the referendum either at its regular board meeting Tuesday or a called meeting later this month in order to meet early December deadline to make it onto the March ballot.