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When the 2019-2020 school year begins Friday morning, just over 4,600 students are expected to return to classrooms in Grady County’s seven public schools.
“We are excited to have the children return for a new school year. I trust everyone has had an enjoyable summer break and is ready to get back to school. We have lots of new opportunities for our students across the system and we will be doing our best to see that all children perform to the best of their abilities. I’m very proud of our administrators, faculty and staff for their recommitment to providing an exceptional learning environment for our children. Best of luck to all students,” Dr. Kermit Gilliard, superintendent of Grady County Schools, said this week.
Grady County educators have been busy this week preparing for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
Dr. Gilliard warns that at the start of every new school term there are kinks to work out and routines to be reestablished. School system officials are reminding the community to be patient and to watch out for children walking to and from school, boarding and exiting buses and crossing the street.
A new traffic flow at Cairo High School is one of the biggest changes that has been made over the summer. Student drop off and pick up will take place at the Grady County Vocational Center where the attendance clerk is now located rather than at the school’s main office.
The high school’s resource officer along with the school crossing guard and CHS faculty members will be directing traffic to maintain a smooth flow of traffic going to and from the school.
“Our faculty and staff are ready for students on Friday morning. Please remember that pickup and drop-off at the schools is hectic for about a week. It will get better. Some parents are learning the routine for the first time, others have been doing it for many years. Patience will be required the first few days in the mornings and afternoons,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Renovation work is continuing at Whigham Elementary School and Dr. Gilliard says that new restrooms at the school are still at least two weeks from being completed. Temporary restroom facilities have been brought in for the opening of school.
“There are going to be some inconveniences at Whigham for the first couple of weeks, but we trust everyone will be patient and understanding. This work is much needed and the final result will be well worth any minor inconvenience as school reopens,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Work on a new Cairo High School NJROTC facility will also be ongoing through the school year.
Improvements being made through a $14.5 million contract with ABM Building Solutions LLC is on-going.
The installation of 309 new video cameras at all seven schools is in process currently, but with school reopening work will begin to be done after hours and at night, according to Dr. Gilliard.
Through the ABM contract, all lighting in county school facilities will be upgraded to LED, which is more energy efficient and the bulbs last 10 years.
New plumbing fixtures that conserve water will be installed along with pedal valves in school cafeteria kitchens to reduce the cost of heating water.
School facilities will be weather-proofed to eliminate wasted heating and cooling of buildings and to make the facilities better insulated.
ABM and Grady County School System officials have identified humidity as an issue in school buildings.
Also included in the scope of the project is central energy management controls that provide for remote access and monitoring of lights and HVAC systems. The new control system will also alert school food service personnel if equipment fails to maintain required food temperatures.
Dyson hand dryers will be installed in all schools, greatly reducing the need for paper towels, trash bags and plumbing issues caused by paper towels flushed down toilets.
A lightning alert system will also be put in at Cairo High School as part of the overall project and a transformer upgrade at Washington Middle School will take place.
Through a “Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract” with ABM, the school system is looking to replace nearly 60 percent of the school system’s HVAC units, or 408 of 746 that have passed their useful life and are in need of replacement.
According to Grady County School System officials, all HVAC units 2006 and older will be replaced. The cost of the replacement of HVAC units, alone, is nearly $6 million.
The complete project is scheduled to be finished by May 2020.
A combination of general fund dollars and Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds are being used to finance the projects in addition to financing through the ABM contract.
The school system is financing up to $14,594,240 over a 20-year term through ABM and the debt will be paid by the guaranteed savings from reduced energy and operational costs, plus $125,000 annually from the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. After five years, the board could elect to pay the debt in full and reduce its interest expense.