To increase space at its popular but crowded Bellingrath Hills and Tanglewood elementary schools, the Central School Board agreed Monday to quit leasing and instead buy four large prefabricated buildings.
“I really think that’s the only thing we can do,” said board member Willard Easley.
The four new buildings, known as classroom wings, will have 34 classrooms and eight restrooms — seven more classrooms and seven more restrooms than currently available.
“Every room is being taken and being used,” Faulk said. “In some of these temporary buildings we have people doubled up, using the same classroom.”
He said he spoke with leaders in other school districts as he considered the best approach. He focused on three options: leasing more temporary buildings, purchasing larger buildings or building new classroom wings.
Buying new buildings costs more than leasing up front, more than $1.2 million, which will come from the school system’s general operating budget, which has more than $12 million in reserves.
Leasing buildings would be less costly in the near term but costs more over time. Leasing current buildings as is would cost more than $1.5 million over a 10-year period. Leasing the larger buildings contemplated for purchase would cost about $2 million over that same period.
Building new classrooms would cost far more yet, about $4.8 million. Faulk derived that figure by multiplying the likely square footage by a construction estimate of $150 a square foot, which Faulk said might be too optimistic an estimate.
Faulk admitted that buying and installing the four new classroom buildings by early August, the start of the 2016-17 school year, just four months away, is ambitious.
“We have a tight schedule, but to me the benefits far outweigh the tension and anxiety we will have,” Faulk said.