Building blocks: $30 million in bonds will fund school construction

A $1.07 billion bond issue signed by Gov. Bob Riley, the first education bond issue in almost a decade, allocates nearly $30 million for Shelby County area schools. Designed to provide funds for construction and repairs to all state-funded K-12 and higher education systems, it is the largest bond issue in state history.

Shelby County Schools receives the state&8217;s fifth largest amount, more than $20 million. Hoover City Schools gets almost $9 million. Funds were calculated from a $200,000 base rate for each system, plus its average attendance.

&8220;When we receive those proceeds, we plan to build classrooms across Shelby County for the students in order to reduce portables,&8221; said Gary McCombs, Shelby County School&8217;s Assistant Superintendent of Finance. &8220;We grow by approximately 1,000 students a year and due to this growth, we continue to look for space in order to provide quality education.&8221;

Central Office staff refused to disclose specific plans, but Shelby County

Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller told Riley during his February visit to Thompson Middle School that the system would build a new school if both community growth and state funding supported it.

&8220;According to the amount of money you give us, the options are wide,&8221; the superintendent told Riley.

Shelby County&8217;s enrollment for the current year reached 25,670 students. Bringing the total to 209, the county school board has already put 40 additional portables in place to prepare for the coming school year.

&8220;We do plan to use the $20 million to help eliminate as many of the portables as we can,&8221; said Cindy Warner, Shelby County Schools&8217; public relations supervisor.

She priced initial lease and setup of each unit at $5,600. Adding necessities, such as handicap ramps, decks, fire alarms, computer wiring and intercoms, brings the total cost to $8,100, she said.

Hoover City Schools, which finished the year with 12,400 students, currently uses no portables.

With 2 percent growth expected for the coming year and already packed classrooms, officials hope the bond issue will help keep it that way.

&8220;We&8217;re always in the process of trying to determine how to handle growth, and we have the area best described as the southwest part of the city that continues to grow at a rather reasonable rate,&8221; said Gary McBay, director of school services for Hoover City Schools. &8220;We know that we&8217;re going to have to do something to address that growth both at the elementary school and the high school levels.&8221;

McBay mentioned Ross Bridge as a possible place the system could expand but said no specific plans for how to use the money have been set.

The governor&8217;s office expects the first round of bonds to be sold by the end of the 2007 calendar year.

It has not yet been determined in what order school systems will receive the money or how long it will take the Education Trust Fund to repay the borrowed finances.