CHIPLEY — The Kate Smith Elementary School construction project received a top ranking in August from the Department of Education’s Special Facilities Construction Committee.
The committee considered the district’s proposal to build a new elementary school and ranked the project first of five other projects seeking funding, Superintendent Joe Taylor told the Washington County School Board on Monday.
The project was ranked “number one” by the committee in Tallahassee, which means the new school is deemed a critical need project.
Taylor and a few board members went to Tallahassee on Aug. 15 to present the project to the committee and returned feeling optimistic about their presentation.
A letter from the DOE dated Aug. 21 states that “the committee voted to recommend the new Kate Smith Elementary School project for inclusion in the Commissioner’s Capital Outlay Budget for 2014-15.”
The district’s work to get the construction project ready for presentation to the committee in August began back in January when the school board started debating whether or not to build the new school on the same site where the current Kate M. Smith Elementary School sits or to build it somewhere else. Ultimately, the board decided to build the new school in a new location — a 22-acre tract of land the district owns between Brickyard Road and South Boulevard.
The construction project is expected to cost $33 million, and will be funded over a two or three years, Taylor said.
The new elementary school has been a long time coming, Taylor said. “This has been a 20-year project.”
Having construction at the new site will mean no disruption of classes at the elementary school, which was a factor in the decision to build at the new location.
Greg Kelley of CRA Architects in Tallahassee, who are handling the construction project, congratulated the board on the successful presentation, which was held on Aug. 15.
“We appreciate you, and all you have done to get us prepared for the presentation,” Board Chairman Terry Ellis told Kelley. Kelley said the project can move forward now that the project has been accepted by the DOE. “We hear there is a $500 million budget excess in Tallahassee and the Legislature is going to be looking for ways to spend it,” Kelley said. “I recommend you get with your legislative delegation and get them involved.”
Getting the project approved by the committee was a great achievement, especially being first in line, Ellis said. “Mr. Taylor did an great job with the presentation.”
Board Member Susan Roberts agreed. “Mr. Taylor did an outstanding job,” she said.
“It was definitely a big day for us,” Ellis added.