Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle said the system is waiting to complete major renovations due to long-term funding.
While $1.3 million in projects on each campus have been completed due to the board paying in cash to avoid debt, Windle said the school board can’t pay for a $34 million wish list of projects without a long-term financial stream, such as the continuation of the county’s 1-cent sales tax for schools for 25 to 30 years.
“If it does not occur, then we will have to do projects as we accumulate enough reserve to do that project one project at a time,” Windle said.
Windle said he wants to start three or four projects as soon as the Tallapoosa County Board of Education gets long-term funding.
Q. What three or four of those projects would you want to start?
A. I think we’d address the 90-year-old building at Reeltown Elementary School, the lunchroom and renovations at Dadeville Elementary School, the fieldhouse and gymnasium situation here at Dadeville (High School) and the $2.5 million renovations and upgrades at Horseshoe Bend School.
Q. What renovations at Reeltown Elementary School would be included?
A. It’s time to build a new school. Ninety years — we’ve got our money out of it and it’s time to address that need, and we also have to address the growth factor in that area in the south end of the county. That’s the only area that we have projected growth. They grew 27 students in the elementary school last year. We think they have grown at a 6% rate over the last 10 years. So in any new construction we also have to address growth. I think my recommendation to the board would be an elementary school for 600 students. They have 500 now. That would give us some room for growth over the next three or four years.
Q. With the population growing, has Reeltown Elementary had to make immediate adjustments to class sizes?
A. We’ve had to use about 85% of their title money to address additional teacher units over the foundation program units in that school. The impact will soon begin to hit the high school when the larger classes (get older and leave the) elementary school. Growth is certainly a factor down there but we’ve been able to accommodate that growth with the splitting of the two schools. At a point we will have to add additional classrooms and we’re at that point almost now.
Q. Are you rearranging the spaces for students at Reeltown Elementary School?
A. No because adding additional classrooms to a 90-year-old building is not a very smart investment. We’ll accommodate it with larger classes but if we don’t get a long-term investment then we’re going to have to address it in some other fashion such as modular classrooms.
Q. How are you preparing for the growth at Reeltown High School?
A. In the original plan for the high school there was a wing that was the exterior door leading to green space where we could add additional classrooms. It’s just a matter of when we have to do it.
Q. How important is continuing the 1-cent sales tax?
A. We’re blessed by the decision that the (Tallapoosa County) Commission made in May of 2015 because at that time we had lost 21.8 % of our state funding and we had not had a raise in local funding since 1989. The dam had broken. We’re a school system that is dependent on state and federal funding to survive. The 1-cent tax gave us the opportunity to dig out of a severe financial crisis for the county. So we owe a debt of thanks to the three commissioners who voted to pass that tax in 2015. That story should not go untold because the impact that they have had with that decision on four years of education for almost 3,000 students in Tallapoosa County is immeasurable.
We’ve been able to add technology that we need. We’ve been able to add and sustain the (Edward Bell Career Technical Center). We’ve been able to become an accredited district school system. We’ve been able to begin to expand our arts program and we will now complete the one-to-one technology initiative down through third grade and a three-to-one initiative in grades K through two. Without the help and the support of the county commission with the 1-cent tax, none of this would be possible.