CHIPLEY — The Washington County School Board approved the 22-plus acre site between South Boulevard and Brickyard Road as the future home of Kate M. Smith Elementary School on Monday night.
District Maintenance Director Mike Park reviewed the process the Site Selection Committee had gone through in choosing the new location for the school.
“This has been an ongoing process of about 20 years,” Park said, “and over the years, some of the names on the committee changed.” In October the Department of Education visited the elementary school to determine the need for a new facility. Five days later, DOE issued the finding that there was a “critical need” for a new elementary school in Chipley, Park said.
With that information, the selection committee met in late December and again on Jan. 3 to discuss the choice of school site, which came down to either stay at the current location, or move the school to the 22-plus acre tract of land the district owns that stretches between South Boulevard and Brickyard Road.
Not all of the committee members were able to attend the Jan. 3 meeting, so Park polled the committee last week at Superintendent Joe Taylor’s request, and the committee recommended relocating the elementary school to the new site.
“With the funding, this is likely to be a two-year or three-year funding cycle,” Park said. “That was an important consideration, we really don’t want to try and have construction going on while we are also having school.”
Once the board had the committee’s recommendation, they voted unanimously to accept the suggestion. The district is trying to get all their ducks in a row so the elementary school is accepted into the DOE funding cycle beginning this coming August, Park said.
“That is why we are moving on this,” he said. “It’s not that we are trying to rush anything through, we are just trying to get everything ready for August.”
Taylor said at the Jan. 3 meeting that if the district can get the project adopted by the DOE in August, then funding and construction could possibly come as soon as August 2014.
Vernon Elementary School parent and PTO member Tara Dockery addressed the board to ask for School Resource Officers and metal detectors at each of the district’s campuses. She presented a petition with 400 signatures asking the board members to give school security more consideration.
“We as parents and grandparents are highly concerned with safety in our schools,” Dockery said, “and we would like to ask our elected school board officials to take a close look at the situation.”
Dockery said the PTO had been in contact with Sheriff Bobby Haddock and she would have more information from the sheriff as to what was needed to fund an officer for each campus.
“As a board, we share your concerns,” said school board chairman Terry Ellis. “There are many schools across the country looking at this very thing, trying to make sure they are doing all that is possible.”
The board members also recognized the nominees for Teachers of the Year, Rookie Teachers of the Year and Employees of the Year.
There will be a reception honoring the district’s employees of the year from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Vernon High School Cafeteria and Auditorium.
The reception will honor this year’s nominees for the Teacher, Rookie Teacher, and Support Staff from each school/cost center.
Light snacks will be served beginning at 3:30 until 4:15 in the cafeteria. At 4:15, honorees will be recognized in the auditorium, and conclude with announcement of District winners for each category.