North Coffee Elementary School renovations are moving forward – the Coffee County Board of Education unanimously approved the preliminary sketches for the changes on Monday, Nov. 5, with one caveat attached. Before going to bid, the board asked OLG Engineers to draw a second design – one that included sinks in the four new kindergarten classrooms and a faculty bathroom in the new wing. Depending on the cost, the faculty bathroom may not be added to the final design.
Board Chairman Brett Henley and OLG Engineer Dean Oliver were both concerned with what the added plumbing would cost.
“We don’t have the money,” Henley said.
The county has a budget of $5 million for the project – any higher would amount to a tax increase. Budget and Finance Committee members are refinancing the remaining $4.3M on a $7.6M loan (Z-6-A) that was issued in 2008 at a 4.75 percent interest rate. Refinancing the loan will create an estimated $460,00 in savings. Those savings, along with some funds from the Rural Debt Service Fund, will allow the county to borrow about $5M on a 20-year term without increasing taxes.
Due to this financial restriction, the board decided for OLG to draw up two plans before launching a request for proposal (RFP).
“I would request, when you do bidding, to add the sinks to the kindergarten classrooms and add extra teacher bathroom as an alternate project so we know what we’re dealing with,” Henley said to Oliver.
The two drawings would allow the board to see cost differences for a new wing with and without the added plumbing.
North Coffee has three existing kindergarten rooms – two of them have sinks, according to North Coffee Principal Adam Clark.
“[Kindergarten teachers] would love to have sinks in their classrooms, but it ultimately comes down to money if we can do it,” he said.
He added that bathrooms in the rooms were not on his teachers’ wish lists – they preferred floor space to having a toilet and extra storage in the rooms.
With the board’s vote of approval, the fire marshal is the last person who needs to inspect and improve the plans before the district can go out to bid.
OLG Engineers have been working with the fire marshal closely and expect no issues moving forward.
The preliminary plans include the following for the current building: a new canopy over the school’s entrance, security renovations, a new office and storage room in the front of the school, the kitchen is expanded into the current cafeteria and the current gym will be turned into a new cafeteria.
The newly construction addition, known as the B building, is planned to include a new middle school regulation sized gym with a stage, which was modelled after Deerfield Elementary School’s gym, a new music room, four new kindergarten classrooms (with or without sinks), three new first grade classrooms, a new library and more.
The added rooms would allow the school to get rid of its four portables. The new addition will be built behind the school where the portables currently sit. The portable rooms were approved to be sold by the Coffee County Board of Education earlier this year.
The new gym will be able to seat 640-650 people in the bleachers and up to 900 people with chairs on the floor. The bleachers span the wall opposite of the stage.
Clark said the district looked into adding the stage into the cafeteria instead of the gym, but it didn’t make sense.
“We didn’t really see the benefit in that,” he said. “Kids need a place to eat.”
He explained that the school currently has to re-arrange gym classes to fill the need to for a larger performance space, so putting the stage in the cafeteria would create problems during lunch periods.
The project is phase one of the county’s two phase plan to renovate area schools. The district estimates the gym, library and cafeteria will be the bulk of the financial burden, coming in at an estimated $4M, while the classrooms will only cost around $1M. The final cost of the renovation will not be known until the county goes out to bid and accepts a proposal.
If the bids come back over the $5M price tag, the board will return to the drawing board to see what can be cut from the project.
Why North Coffee?
The board briefly discussed cutting off the last two classrooms on the new addition to save money, but decided it would be smarter for future growth to keep the rooms.
“If we don’t need eight new classrooms, we could cut off the two rooms at the end and put the money somewhere else,” suggested board member Shannon Duncan. “Ideally, I would love the money now to build all of it...when they growth and that money comes, add on.”
However, Clark made it clear that North Coffee would be the first school to be hit by population growth.
“We’ve gone up 54 students and 22 of them were at North Coffee,” said Director of Schools LaDonna McFall.
The school has a student population of about 500. The county is expecting growth as the neighboring counties begin to grow as well. Rutherford County is the district’s current primary concern, as some parents are already beginning to transfer their students to North Coffee. As other areas, such as Murfreesboro and Nashville continue to expand, the North Coffee area is expecting an influx of population.
“If we were to add another teacher, I would have no place to put them,” Clark said.
New Union Elementary School may be affected as well, but the school is landlocked and does not have much room to expand.