The Tallapoosa County Board of Education received a pleasant surprise as it recently opened bids for constructing an auditorium at Horseshoe Bend School. It came in more than 30% under budget.

“We had a loud cheering session after the six bidders left,” Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle said in a school board work session Thursday. “It was $1.2 million under the architects estimate.”

The trend of projects coming in under estimate has been common lately, according to Windle.

“The last three bids we have let have come in under budget,” Windle said.

Windle attributed the savings to contractors seeking work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school board will take up approving the $2,883,000 auditorium bid from Whatley Construction at its Monday meeting.

With major construction projects underway on the two of the three main campuses in the system and a the auditorium at Horseshoe Bend on the way on the third campus, board member Matilda Woodyard-Hamilton questioned when work will be complete on the roof of the gymnasium at Edward Bell Technical Center. It was something Woodyard-Hamilton said was promised. Windle said the $88,000 project was budgeted but was not part of the capital plan presented to the Tallapoosa County Commission to be funded by the new 1-cent sales tax.

The renaming of the gymnasium at Dadeville High School will be on the Monday’s agenda. Windle said P.R. Caldwell had approached him before Caldwell’s death about naming the gym after his brother Mitchell Caldwell. Windle said he asked P.R. about putting his name on the gym because he played in it and not Mitchell.

“No, I don’t want my name on it,” Windle said P.R. told him. “I played in it but my brother built that gym.”

Mitchell Caldwell was a student at Dadeville, an athlete, teacher, principal and served eight years as Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent.

The gym was already named after W.M. Weldon so Mitchell Caldwell’s name would need to be added to Weldon’s.

Hamilton inquired about naming the gym at Edward Bell after P.R. Caldwell since he was instrumental as a basketball coach there. Windle said he was fine with the idea as long as someone from the community brought the measure to the board.

Buses for the system are due to be replaced through the fleet renewal program. Windle inquired about the board members' thoughts on the next buses having air conditioning. Windle explained 28 buses would be purchased with most of the funds coming from the state. He said the one special needs bus must be air conditioned and it is optional on the 27 other buses. Windle suggested spending the extra $199,000 total — just over $7,000 per bus — to air condition the buses or just over $7,000 per bus.

“We don’t buy a car without air conditioning,” Windle said. “Why would we put our kids on buses now without air conditioning?”

Board members agreed.

“I think the comfort of those children outweigh the cost,” Woodyard-Hamilton said.

Windle said parents of two students will make requests of the board at its Monday meeting for out-of-district placement. He said one parent will ask for placement at Horseshoe Bend School from Dadeville Elementary. Windle said the student has been back and forth between the two schools, but this time wants the out-of-district placement.

The other request is for a student to remain at Horseshoe Bend School who currently lives in Alexander City. In January the board allowed the student to finish the school year at Horseshoe Bend before addressing the matter.

Board member Michael Carter said he felt uncomfortable allowing out-of-district placement.

“I think it is our job to enforce those rules,” Carter said. “I think we have to do it and make sure our principals are enforcing the rules.”

Carter said there is a lot of confusion about the boundary between the Dadeville and Reeltown school districts.

“It is iffy,” Carter said. “Is it (Highway) 50? Blue Creek?”

Windle said the boundary is Lake Martin.

“It is the waterline,” Windle told the board. “The north side of the Blue Creek is Dadeville. The south side is Reeltown.

Windle said if a student has to cross the bridge at Blue Creek on Highway 49, he or she is going to the wrong school. He said Reeltown’s school district extends from the bridge at Blue Creek to Martin Dam and from Blue Creek to the Alabama Sheriff’s Girls Ranch.

“The girls ranch is in the Reeltown district,” Windle said. “Across the road is in the Dadeville school district.”

Board member Dr. Betty Carol Graham said there is also confusion in the Jacksons Gap, Eagle Creek and Buttston areas about what district students are in.

Windle said he will request a map be printed with just the attendance zones and if they need to be adjusted legal help will likely be needed.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.