The Macon County Board of Education divvied up the majority of a $99,035 allotment given by the county for capital improvements at the July board meeting.
While the school board had originally requested $297,035 in 19 outstanding infrastructure improvements ranging from replacing vacuum cleaners to new carpet, county commissioners allotted $99,035 and directed the school board to prioritize the needs.
Much of the July board meeting was spent in debate on how the money should be spent. Even after prioritizing needs within the district, the school system would need $199,035 to make improvements the board believed to be vital for the next school year. A bulk of that sum is in the $75,000 needed to upgrade the HVAC air units in the 6th grade wing at Macon Middle School. "That unit will more than likely not make it through next year," said Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. "We are going to have to replace it. I think we should mark it as an emergency project and wait until it does go out and then go back to the county commissioners and explain to them the situation. I hope that they would see the need and give us the funds to replace it then."
With that project pushed to the side for now, the remaining four projects would total $124,035. Board members were in agreement that the $29,035 needed to replace the roof on the old gym at Highlands needed to be completed immediately due to leakage.
After debating the best course of action to take on broken windows at Franklin High School, the board decided to spend $30,000 to repair windows throughout the school that are currently inoperable. Several of the broken windows pose immediate safety hazards for students and will be replaced entirely. According to Baldwin, ideally he would like to see all of the windows replaced, but due to the lack of available funds, the school board decided to only replace the worst ones and repair the others.
Board Chairman Jim Breedlove expressed his concern for the safety of the students. “So you’re saying we have windows that could very easily result in the injury of a student,” asked Breedlove.
"They already have," said Dr. Baldwin, citing an incident which occurred last year.
The window project will begin as soon as supplies are obtained.
The remaining $40,000 in capital outlay funds remains unallocated as board members could not agree on how to spend it. Breedlove explained that he believes $25,000 of it needs to be spent for renovations to the Macon Middle School boy’s locker room. The locker room, which not only serves boys at Macon Middle, but also hosts visiting schools for sporting events, has been transformed over the years into a weight room. Old weight lifting equipment was placed in the room for storage which virtually eliminated any space students had for changing and other locker room needs. The lockers are also inaccessible leaving no storage for MMS students or teams from visiting schools.
The other capital outlay item up for debate is $40,000 for district wide security measures. Originally, the school board did not include security measures in their general capital outlay request to the county in hopes that after the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Conn., commissioners would fund that line item separately. That was not the case and commissioners instructed the school board to include security measures in the general capital outlay fund.
Board member Gary Shields said he believed that the school board made a pledge to the community to improve security at the county schools and owed it to the public to make the outlined security improvements.
Unable to reach a decision on the final $40,000, the school board decided to collect information and details on the MMS locker room and the enhanced security and revisit both issues during the Aug. 16 meeting at the district's central office.