Manchester City Schools has begun the preliminary steps of a $1.7 million Westwood Middle School upgrade that will add four classrooms with phase 1 and in the future, phases 2,3 will address the kitchen, gym and auditorium to the tune of $8.2 million.
The phases will be funded through school system reserves and through federal COVID-19 relief funds. The district will not approach the city for funding.
“This is why we’ve worked to save money,” said Chairman of the Board Travis Hillis, “to buy the stuff the kids need. Right now they’re sitting in facilities that are 50 years old.”
During the April board meeting the Board of Education approved moving forward with the planning. During a work session that preceded the meeting, architect David Brown of Meridian Architecture, the firm that planned the current buildout at College Street Elementary, presented initial schematics of the project.
Brown said that classroom addition would be at the end of an existing hallway where two offices are located now. There will be two restrooms near the athletic fields.
Brown said that the increased phase 2 cafeteria will have the capacity to serve 600 students. The phase 3 gym will have its own restrooms, locker rooms and include an independent auditorium space.
“This will be the three big projects that will take Westwood Middle as far as we can with it,” Brown said.
Director of Schools Dr. Joey Vaughn said that WMS is full with 450 students. The updates will add roughly a 150 student capacity increase.
Vaughn said that once the three phases are complete, the current facilities will be at maximum. The next step down the road, if current growth trends continue or increase, would be a new building.
Vaughn also explained that the funding the project with federal money requires paying contactors at federal labor rates. Brown and Vaughn note that many of the contractors from the Nashville area are already at the federal rate, but the district could see some increase in specialized labor such as electricians. One work around would be to budget the capital projects with general funds and use the federal money for other projects that fall in acceptable usage.
Phase 1 will cost an estimated $1.7 million. ESSER 2 money to be used for that will be $504,000 to be used along with a budgeted $588,500 that was earmarked for College Street HVAC units (ESSER funded the replacement) and will require pulling $607,500 from the fund balance.
Phase 2 will cost an estimated $2.7 million and phase 3 will be $5.5 million.
The system 2020-21 budget anticipates an operating cost of $15.815 million total. On the surface, it calls for a total dip of $562,737 into the fund balance, which is fully anticipated to be made up by the end of the budget, and the estimated fund balance is listed as ending at a strong $5.08 million.
“Bottom line, we can build four classrooms, two restrooms and put in a family restroom and still have in the neighborhood of $3.5 million in fund balance going into next year,” Vaughn said.
The ESSER funds will first be used for learning loss programs and early literacy. Additional ESSER 3 fund should be announced soon.
Vaughn said that the district will not move into the additional phases until there’s money to pay for it.
The board approved a contract with Meridian to start phase 1 bidding.