Education

Does Columbus need a new school? Here’s how you can have a say in how MCSD spends money.

Two schools would merge into one new building, several schools would be expanded or upgraded, a postponed sports complex would be completed, and a new public library would replace a current one in Columbus.

They are among the Muscogee County School District’s 20 proposed capital projects — totaling an estimated $185 million — on the preliminary list superintendent David Lewis and other administrators presented during the school board’s monthly work session Monday evening.

The proposed projects would be funded by the 1% Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax if Columbus voters renew it by approving the referendum targeted for the March 24 ballot, along with the Georgia presidential primary.

ESPLOSTs last for five years or until the requested amount is collected. The school district’s current ESPLOST, which Columbus voters approved in 2015, comprises 24 projects and was budgeted for $192,185,000. That sales tax is scheduled to expire June 30.

MCSD will conduct four public forums to gather feedback from residents about the preliminary list. Lewis then will ask the board to vote on the final list during the Nov. 18 meeting, board chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1 told the Ledger-Enquirer after Monday’s work session.

Here is the preliminary list, with estimated costs:

$45 million: Improvements to technology and technology infrastructure

$25 million: New elementary school. Dawson and St. Marys Road elementary schools, approximately 1 mile away from each other, would consolidate into a new school, to be constructed on 20-25 acres of MCSD property behind Dawson. The latest enrollment figures from the Georgia Department of Education show 59-year-old Dawson had 346 students and 63-year-old St. Marys had 492 students as of March. Dawson’s capacity is 475, and St. Marys’ is 438. With enrollment at Dawson below the minimum for full state funding, Lewis said, merging with St. Marys into a new school would make the district more efficient and effective.

$23 million: Unspecified renovations and modifications in district’s five-year facilities plan

$16 million: Bus, vehicle and transportation equipment replacements

$15.5 million: Athletics facilities improvements throughout the district, including upgrades to middle school football and soccer fields, expansion of Carver and Columbus high school weight rooms, replacement of wooden bleachers throughout the district, upgrade Kinnett Stadium technology, scoreboard and lighting, and resurface Carver and Hardaway high school tracks.

$15 million: Athletics complex for multiple sports and systemwide use, built to specifications that would allow MCSD to host more state championship events. It would be constructed next to Spencer High School and include a 6,000-seat football stadium, with an eight-lane track and a separate 2,000-seat soccer field. This project also would include the $11 million from the current ESPLOST, which voters approved in 2015. But sales tax revenue has been less than expected, so this project was postponed.

$13 million: Arnold Middle School modernization

$4 million: Hardaway High School additions

$4 million: Kendrick High School additions

$3.5 million: School campus safety and security upgrades

$3 million: Bond issue financing

$3 million: Columbus Museum upgrades

$3 million: Jordan Vocational High School College & Career Academy facility enhancements

$3 million: North Columbus Public Library replacement. It would be built at another location, yet to be announced

$2 million: Furniture, fixtures and equipment throughout the district to replace outdated items

$2 million: School nutrition equipment replacements

$1.5 million: Mathews Elementary School additions

$1.5 million: Playground replacements and repairs

$1 million: Columbus High School exterior upgrades

$1 million: Stephen T. Butler STEAM Center upgrades. STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math

IF YOU GO

What: Muscogee County School District’s public forums to answer questions and hear opinions about the preliminary list of proposed projects that would be funded by the 1% Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax if Columbus voters renew it be approving the referendum targeted for the March 24 ballot.

When/where: Four dates and locations, all starting at 6:30 p.m.

  • Oct. 23, Dorothy Height Elementary School cafeteria
  • Oct. 28, Columbus Public Library auditorium
  • Oct. 30, Northside High School auditorium
  • Nov. 5, Kendrick High School auditorium.
Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.
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