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Lafayette County School Board discusses plans for Elementary School

Members of the Lafayette County School District Board of Directors met Thursday night for the first of many work sessions regarding construction of a new elementary school and other campus renovations.

The meeting began with the school board voting to approve a contract with Innovative Construction Management.

Following the announcement, the board members and representatives from ICM, Pryor Morrow Architects and the Young Law Group spent the next two hours discussing bond limits, moving third grade and overcrowding in all schools in LCSD.

In terms of bond limits, attorney Jim Young said he could not speak in absolutes. However, he said the amount of money the school can borrow will depend on the direction they want to go with the new Lafayette Elementary School project.

“I think, depending on how creative we want to get and how far we want to tug, we’re looking at between $21 and $23 million, as the maximum,” Young said. “The argument is, ‘We don’t want to raise taxes,’ but the counterargument is, this is your one shot for the next 15 to 20 years.”

Casey Rogers of ICM presented the issue by the numbers, explaining that the overcrowding problem will only get worse as children progress through school.

For example, LES had 661 students enrolled in the 2017-18 school year. However, the maximum student capacity in the current building is 500. The extra 161 students constitutes a significant overflow, Rogers said. Lafayette Middle School was 114 students over capacity. The upper elementary school was 35 students below capacity for the most recent school year, and the high school has room to accommodate 140 students.

“We want to talk about this whole campus, just take a step back. We took some historical data, and we’re at about 2 percent growth [per year],” Rogers said. “So, we know where we’re going to be in 2023, 2024, 20205. We can figure that out.”

In terms of site plans, which were discussed but not approved, ICM and Pryor Morrow Architects presented a model based on Corinth Elementary School, which Pryor Morrow also designed. Should the board choose a similar design, the school would be set up with a central building and separate wings for each grade level. The new school will be built on land leased from the county by LCSD.

There would also be several alternate options, depending on the final budget and bids accepted. One cost-saving measure discussed was postponing the construction of a third grade wing, instead renovating the current LES building and keeping third grade as well as some other programs there for a period of time.  

“The elementary, if we could get that third grade out of the upper elementary and get that in the new building, we’ve got room to grow,” superintendent Adam Pugh said. “As they come, we’ve got space. If we can do that, we’ve got two of our overcrowding issues fixed.”

Rogers agreed, saying the right solution could potentially solve LCSD’s overcrowding problems through 2038, based on the data projections he’d compiled. LCSD is already bringing in two more modular classrooms this fall, Pugh said, so a new school can’t come soon enough.

Rogers said, should things go according to plan, the project could move into the schematic design phase as early as mid-July, August 1 at the latest. The project is projected to be complete by 2020.

The school board completed the meeting by hiring Pryor Morrow Architects to conduct a master study to determine the needs of the entire district in relation to the new elementary school.

For more information, visit http://gocommodores.org.