Schools unveil new campus plans

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By Nathan L. McBroom

The Shelby County Board of Education approved a plan for the construction of three new schools in the next eight years at its Dec. 13 meeting.

The board's decision modifies a building plan that it approved last May by changing the timeline for the opening of the new schools and the design specifications of the buildings.

According to the plan, the district will have a new elementary, middle and high school by 2015.

All three buildings will be constructed on the new west campus off U.S. 60 near Ardmore Lane. The total project will cost the district close to $100 million.

The first building to be constructed would initially house all of the eighth- and ninth-grade students in the district. This "8/9" center will provide relief to the crowded middle and high schools.

The building was originally scheduled to be built in phases with the initial student capacity of 1,200.

The new plan eliminates building in phases and will be completed by fall of 2010.

The construction cost of the building is $40 million and the estimated total cost of the building is $47 million. The building is designed to be 200,000 square feet and will eventually become the district's second high school. The student capacity was approved to be increased to 1,500.

The Local Planning Committee, however, must first amend this change.

The original plan also called for an elementary school to open at the same time as the "8/9" center. The new plan delays the construction of the elementary school by two years. The estimated total cost of the school is $17.6 million.

It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.

Dr. Susan Cook, interim superintendent, told board members that opening two buildings at once would be a logistical and financial strain on the district. Using current enrollment trends, she told board members that the current elementary schools could sustain growth until 2012.

The plan also outlines the construction of the district's third middle school. The school is scheduled to open in 2015. At that time the "8/9" center will become a high school for students in grades nine to 12. And the eighth grade students will be distributed between the districts three middle schools.

Also at the meeting, board members listened to the results of a traffic study conducted at Heritage Elementary.

The study presented traffic flow and parking statistics and gave suggestions for solving the current traffic problems.

Heritage principal Cindy Adkins told board members that the school has a difficult time directing buses and car riders through the daily drop-off and pick-up lines and having enough parking for teachers.

Adkins said the study's suggestions were promising.

"I think it will make many improvements to the impossible situation we face everyday," she said.

The study presented four alternative solutions to the problems. Possible solutions include adding a new entrance to the parking lot, adding car stacking lanes, increasing parking space and redirecting traffic flow.

Kerry Whitehouse said he will present more information about the situation at the next board meeting.

Board members are currently considering the situation and will take up the issue at its January meeting.