Board making most out of school bonds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 29, 2008

&8220;A great building must begin with the immeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed and in the end must be immeasurable.&8221;

&8212;Louis Kahn

The Shelby County Board of Education rightly voted in unanimous fashion last week to approve Superintendent Randy Fuller&8217;s plan to spend just more than $20 million to remove almost half of the 209 portable classrooms currently in place at county schools.

The money comes from state bonds issued last summer. All told, $1.07 billion will be invested in schools across our state, making this the largest bond issue in our state&8217;s history.

Fuller and his leadership team should be proud of their plan to maximize the money available, to get as many children as possible

out of portables and into more suitable learning environments.

Figuring out how to invest $20 million would appear to be a high-class problem, but when one stops to consider that this money only addresses roughly 25 percent of our school system&8217;s current capital needs, that high-class circumstance turns quickly into a real head-scratcher.

How did they decide to invest the money?

Phase one of the unanimously approved capital improvement plan:

-Sets aside money to build new classrooms at four elementary schools and three high schools.

-Shifts sixth-graders at Thompson Middle to a renovated Linda Nolen Learning Center, adjacent to Thompson Intermediate, in 2009 and later moves students currently at the learning center to the former Bradford Health Center, purchased by the board in November for $2.5 million.

-Adds 15 classrooms to the new Calera High.

-Transition over two years to move grades 4-8 at Calera Middle School and grades 9-12 at Calera High. This transition should be completed by the 2010-2011 school year.

-Offers facelifts to schools in Calera and Chelsea.

Fuller worked for nine months, methodically studying needs at each school with extra importance placed on eliminating a significant number of portable classrooms. Fuller did not make a knee-jerk decision but rather one based on a careful review of what is best for our students today and down the road.

One cannot ask for more than that.