Suwannee Democrat


March 27, 2014

Hamilton school board to consider elementary school consolidation-Public meeting is April 14 at HCHS auditorium

Jasper — School safety and security was the topic of discussion at a Hamilton County School Board workshop held Monday, March 24. Superintendent Thomas Moffses reminded everyone it was a continuation of talks that began a year ago with regard to school safety and security issues at the three elementary schools.

Violet Brown from the Florida Department of Education (DOE) Facilities Department gave a presentation to the Hamilton County School Board at their Sept. 23, 2013 workshop to address the county’s educational facilities and how the DOE may be able to help.

“They recommended to the board at that time that the board had the opportunity for a single construction project,” said Moffses. “Since then, we have discussed the facilities through a safety and security standpoint numerous times, as recently as a couple months ago. We had workshops that were available at South, Central and North.”

Parents and members of the community of White Springs attended the workshop at South, but there was no attendance other than board members and the school administrative team at the workshops held at Central and North, Moffses said. Video footage of the issues at the three schools were shown at each workshop.

“If we are going to participate in a construction project, we have numerous items that have to be completed and prepared to deliver to the DOE by August,” Moffses told the board.

The first item, which was the survey of the facilities, has already been done. The second item is to make a decision as to where a new facility will be built. Moffses said the school district currently owns three parcels of land that could possibly be used for the construction of a new elementary school; 1) The northern portion of land at the high school that the FFA is currently utilizing. 2) A portion of the property that used to house the old high school, specifically the gymnasium and the ball field. 3) The old school district administrative complex.  

Due to water and wetlands issues at the high school property over the last 10 years, Moffses said he would not recommend it to the board. To use the property at the old high school, Moffses said the only way it could be done was if they could get some of the property back from the county and then make the new building a two story facility.

The old administrative complex, Moffses said, is a full city block and 40 acres in size and would be his choice to recommend.

“With a new construction project, they do include that dollars can be provided to remove facilities prior to construction,” said Moffses.

If the board does not like any of those three options, the school district would have to move quickly to obtain a new parcel of land, Moffses explained.

In order to move forward with the project, the board must formally approve the DOE’s survey recommendation, which is to construct one school that will accommodate all of the county’s elementary students, as well as agree to close North, South and Central. Moffses explained that all three schools are at a critical juncture and the board is aware of it.

“This isn’t the first time that the DOE facilities team has come in and shared that information,” said Moffses. “We have gone through all the process to get to this point. I’m just sharing with you that the next step is to bring it to the board for a vote. At that time, each of the members can do as they choose.”

In order to meet the timeline to be on the agenda with the DOE and all the teams that will have to come in and review, the board has to vote yea or nay on the project, Moffses explained.

“The teams may come in and say there is not a critical need and at that point, that’s the end of the process,” said Moffses.

The board agreed to place it on the agenda for further discussion and pending action at the April 14 meeting of the school board, which will be held at 6 p.m. inside the Hamilton County High School Auditorium. Information will also be available that details what is involved and how much money would be needed to make upgrades at the three schools, rather than opt for the new school/consolidation project.

Moffses invited the public to view the videos that were taken at the three elementary schools, which show the safety and security issues at each facility. They are located on the School District’s YouTube page using these links:

SHE Video--Hamilton County School District Board Workshop

CHE Video--Hamilton County School District Board Workshop

NHE Video--Hamilton County School District Board Workshop

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