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School facilities improvements to continue

ALLEN POWELL, a graduate of Cairo High School and former police officer with the City of Quitman Police Department, most recently the School Resource Officer at Washington Middle School, was named the new chief of the Grady County School System Police Department. Chief Powell replaces the inaugural chief, Redell Walton, who resigned recently to become the chief of police for the City of Bainbridge.

The Grady County Board of Education is pushing forward with planned construction projects and on Tuesday night authorized the superintendent of schools to proceed with the next phase of the renovation of Whigham School and the construction of a new gymnasium at Shiver School.

Phase 2 of the Whigham renovations will include some drainage work, a new school facade, and a covered bus ramp. Then, in the summer of 2021, renovation work for the 1956 buildings which house the primary and middle grades will begin.
On Tuesday, superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard sought authorization of up to $1 million for the two additional phases at Whigham. According to the superintendent, the system has received a bid of $870,000, but he said that did not include any asphalt resurfacing, which he believes will be necessary as part of the corrections to drainage issues in the school’s courtyard.
The board unanimously authorized up to $1 million to complete the Whigham project with the funding coming from Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds.
Dr. Gilliard also reported that by next week a mobile unit on the campus of Shiver School would be removed making way for the start of the construction of a new gym.
Rather than constructing a brick structure like at Southside and Eastside, Dr. Gilliard is recommending a block and metal structure similar to the one on the campus of Whigham School.
The new gym will also have a concrete floor rather than wood. The gyms at Southside and Eastside are both concrete and the gym floors at Washington and Whigham are both wood. The floor at W.M.S. was replaced recently at a cost of nearly $500,000.
“A wood floor is a lot more expensive and we are looking at this as a P.E. facility. We can construct it for about $850,00, but if we built a brick structure it would be $1.3 to $1.4 million,” Dr. Gilliard said.
The new Shiver gym will be split block construction 10 feet up and metal above that, according to the school superintendent. Funding for the new gym is the remainder of the ESPLOST 4 tax money. “This will finish out ESPLOST 4, I believe,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Work is also expected to begin in the coming months on the new construction at Eastside Elementary School. Plans for the construction project were transmitted to the Georgia Department of Education for approval on Tuesday.
According to Dr. Gilliard, the state regulations, based on the number of Eastside students, called for not only the school cafeteria to be enlarged, but also the school’s media center. While local officials had planned some improvement for the media center, an enlargement was not contemplated.
Dr. Gilliard has applied for and received a waiver from the state thus avoiding an estimated $1 million expense to enlarge the school’s media center.
The Grady County school superintendent told board members he is still hopeful the Eastside project can be done for approximately $6 million, but he acknowledged that school system maintenance director, Dave Mitchell, and finance officer, Dan Broome, predicted it will cost more.
To prepare for the construction, traffic is being rerouted from the front of the school and a portable building will be set up next to the kindergarten wing, which is where visitors will enter the school. School personnel will be stationed in the portable building and will have control over electronic access to the outside door to the kindergarten wing.
Dr. Gilliard said that until the cost of the Eastside project is known the system cannot move forward with plans to construct the new Grady Education Center, formerly known as Crossroads, on a tract of land on Fourth Avenue S.E. between Cairo High School and Southside Elementary School.
In other news, Dr. Gilliard reported that the ceiling joists for the new Northside Elementary School cafeteria went up Tuesday and the roof would be put on next.
The superintendent also reported that the new Navy J.R.O.T.C. facility is nearly finished and the facility was used last week for a regional leadership training for students representing Cairo High School and schools in Valdosta, Coffee County and Lee County.
Dr. Gilliard reported that the system’s maintenance department was working on the new social services building in a former residence across from Southside Elementary School, but he noted that the facility had been targeted by vandals who had broken some of the old windows and windows at the annex, which houses the special education offices as well as new windows installed in the social services building.
According to the superintendent, vandals also recently broke into the concession stand operated by the Cairo High School Band and unsuccessfully attempted to pop popcorn and make coffee, but were successful in making a mess and firing off fire extinguishers in the building.
Lastly, Board member John White requested an update on the repairs to the Cairo High School College and Career Center, which was struck by an out-of-control motorist last year. Dr. Gilliard said that the block had to be special ordered to match the existing block and that delivery is expected in the next couple of weeks.
College and Career Academy C.E.O. Todd Gainous reports that the delay in repair would not prevent the school from being able to utilize the affected rooms and that plans had been formulated for the reopening of school to accommodate for lab space.
In other business Tuesday night the board:
Approved the hiring of Marlis Fewell as a bus driver.
Approved the retirement of Debra Singletary – administrative assistant; Donnie Johnson – school bus driver; Brenda Kelly – teacher at Eastside Elementary School; and Cynthia Orme – paraprofessional at Eastside.
Accepted the following resignations: Sheila Herendeen – paraprofessional at Southside Elementary School; Pate Harrison – PE/Health teacher at Cairo High School; Darius Walden – custodian at Whigham School; Redell Walton – chief of police; Qunta Wyche – teacher at Eastside Elementary School; Richard Brimm – teacher at Northside Elementary School; and Rose Coleman – teacher at Washington Middle School.
The board also approved the transfer of two employees: Iris Loudermilk – from food service assistant at Southside Elementary School to Eastside Elementary School and Allen Powell from School Resource Officer at Washington Middle School to Chief of Police for the Grady County School System Police Department.
Unanimously accepted the recommendation of the superintendent to spend $30,491.00 with Network Technology to replace the school district’s computer firewall. Bids were also solicited from Blough Tech and Howard Technologies, but neither submitted a bid.
Accepted the lone bid of $15,700 from Blough Tech for PC installation and migration for new teacher laptops.
Accepted the bid of $56,250 from Blough Tech to install 1,500 student laptops and 50 storage/charging carts.
Accepted the bid of $272,000 from Dell Computers for teacher laptops with docking stations.
Approved the purchase of Lightspeed Classroom Management software that allows teachers to monitor students’ activities on laptops and iPads. The software will also alert the appropriate adults when key words selected by the system are searched for or typed in emails, as an example “suicide.”
Accepted the sole source bid of $13,575 to replace the two services that is used for the school system’s student management service, PowerSchool.
Accepted the bid of $11,025 from Triple S. Communications of Moultrie to perform a 1,225 foot directional bore underneath the student parking lot at Cairo High School and install conduit for a new lighting system, which will have light fixtures in each of the four corners of the parking lot and eliminate the need for interior light posts in the parking lot. This project is being undertaken in partnership with the City of Cairo.
Accepted the bid of $22,598.67 from Yancey for the purchase of a new engine for a 2001 model school bus with 90,142 miles. According to Dr. Gilliard, the body of the bus is in excellent shape, but the engine needs to be replaced, which is cheaper than purchasing a new bus at a cost of between $80,000 and $90,000. The new engine comes with a five-year, 100,000 mile warranty.

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