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District Educational Facilities Plan approved

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Nov 23, 2020

The Lee County School Board approved the District Educational Facilities Plan for the fiscal years 2021 through 2040 after a lengthy discussion Tuesday night.

The District Facilities Workplan Report is submitted to the state every year to show that it is sufficient and financially feasible, after a final hearing and approval by the board is made. The plan is an expanded version of the capital plan that the board sees each year.

The revisions this year was an increase of $18 million, which Director of Budget Kelly Letcher said in a previous board meeting that is really good because it puts some additional dollars back into the schools.

There was also minor adjustments made in the fund balance because of the actual numbers that came in and the finalizing of everything after the final budget. Minor changes was also made in appropriations with some added dollars for property by Riverdale in order to build the school out and do some remodeling.

East Elementary School Ju was also moved up a year, opening in August 2023. There was also some additional money added to planning for some property of interest for the district.

Within the first five years of the plan, the district has two new elementary schools, two new middle and high schools and Gateway High School, as well as the pre-k-8 innovation school, and five remodels and renovations.

Years six through 20 of the workplan focuses on what schools the district thinks it will need. The years six through 10, the district is looking at six new schools — one elementary school, two middle and three high schools. During years 11 through 20, the district is looking at 17 new schools — seven elementary, six middle and four new high schools.

Letcher told the board the numbers of course will keep changing based on the student population and what is happening in the district. She told the board earlier this month that nothing is set in stone and that there is always room for changes and adjustments.

The recommended action, which was later unanimously approved after Board Member Gwyn Gittens withdrew her motion to include the language of “flexibility and time frames can change,” was to approve the District Educational Facilities Plan for the fiscal years 2021 through 2040. “Each district school board shall prepare a tentative district educational facilities plan that includes long-range planning for facilities needs over 5-year, 10-year, and 20-year periods.”

Gittens wanted to amend the motion because the plan stretches over a long period of time and she wanted to make sure it was known that the plan is flexible.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said he was not comfortable with the change as they discussed the plan in length here at the table a few weeks before. He said he did not have the opportunity to look further into the amended motion before the next meeting, and although it probably does not have any implications, he did not feel comfortable moving forward with the new language.

“I know I have been told this is not in stone and it can change, but then on the other hand we have also heard at times the board has already voted on it,” Gittens said. “I do not feel comfortable voting on this for such a long period of time when something comes up and doesn’t change.”

Board Member Chris Patricca asked Gittens if the word “tentative” covered her concern, as it is stated in the motion and lets the public know the plan is not set in stone and offers some flexibility.

The amended motion was then withdrawn and the original motion carried unanimously.