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Construction of new Pre-K-12 school facility proposed

The football and track stadium in the rendering above would be a phase two project of the new school facility proposal. 

The current middle-high school is located where the stadium is pictured above.

Citing the age of current school facilities, the need for continued and future repair and patchwork on facilities structurally damaged by Hurricane Michael, along with a list of other negative issues, Seminole County School officials are proposing the construction of a new Pre-K through twelfth grade school facility. The new facility would be located on property just south of the existing middle high school on Georgia Highway 39 South.

The decision to build an all-in-one Seminole County School System facility would also allow the school system to obtain more funding from the Georgia Department of Education than a separated elementary and middle/high school. 

A comprehensive facility study was recently conducted at all Seminole County schools and it has been determined that the cost of upgrading SCES and SCMHS is greater than the state funding to construct a new Pre-K-12 facility. School Superintendent Mark Earnest commented, “To maximize our money from the state and to insure all of our children are in modern, safe, and secure facilities, we are planning for a new PreK-12 facility. The new facility would allow the school system to start fresh and not have to allocate money each year to the high price of repairs and failures that are occurring in our current buildings. This will allow the chance to lower power bills substantially as well.” 

If the school system chooses to build south of the existing middle/high school site, all of the athletics and extracurricular activities would all be on one master campus. The existing gymnasium could be kept for the community and after-school programs. This new school construction option also keeps the students functioning in their day to day lives during the duration of construction. 

The new Pre-K-12 facility would be paid for through a Seminole County ESPLOST. An Education Special Purpose Location Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) allows local districts to ask voters for the ability to levy and collect a one percent sales tax to help fund school facility and equipment improvements. It cannot be used to pay operation expenses, such as salaries. ESPLOSTs are enacted by referendum, and Seminole County’s ESPLOST vote will take place in November 2021. If approved, Seminole County’s sales tax would remain at its current level. This would not be a new tax, and a “yes” vote would simply extend the current 1% sales tax for education for an additional five years. 

The Seminole County School System qualifies for Low Wealth Project Specific Funding, which is designed to assist systems that rank in the bottom 25% in ESPLOST earnings to build schools. Through this program, Seminole County schools are eligible for approximately $32 million for  the new Pre-K-12 facility. The total cost of the project is approximately $44 million. 

The school system will need to renew the ESPLOST this November and in future years, and the school system will need to issue bonds for up to $12 million. Since the $12 million is more than the five year ESPLOST cycle will collect, renewal ESPLOSTS will be necessary to retire the bonds, with no additional tax increase locally.  “This is common practice used in school systems to accomplish major projects,” Earnest added. 

The ESPLOST extension helps keep ad valorem taxes stable. The ESPLOST is not a property tax. It provides a method of funding the cost of educational improvements that everyone, not just property owners, contributes to. Additionally, the sales tax is paid by everyone who shops in Seminole County. 

Earnest said that “If the ESPLOST does not pass in November, we would not be able to construct a new school. We would still need to have another election to renew the ESPOST to continue to maintain our current buildings that are 70 (SCES) and 26 (SCMHS) years old. If that ESPLOST did not pass, we would have to rely on property taxes to maintain our aging facilities.”

New facilities would be

more energy efficient

In detailing reasons a new facility for all grades was necessary, Earnest added that both the elementary school and the middle/high school are very energy inefficient buildings. One of most obvious causes for this problem is the egregious amount of exterior doors in the facilities. Doors are frequently problematic components of a building’s thermal envelope. Typical negative issues include heat loss from air movement during operation, heat loss from air movement through the perimeter detail, and radiant heat loss through the door materials themselves. Door frames that do not incorporate adequate thermal isolation form thermal bridges that tend to lead to wintertime condensation. Overall door thermal performance is a function of the type of operation, the glazing (if applicable), the frame and perimeter details, the sash and sash weather stripping, and the door materials.  

Heat loss from air leakage is the most significant challenge to thermal performance for heavily used entrance and exit doors. This is what can cause monthly utility bills to be higher than buildings of the same size with better building envelopes. 

The only way to solve this issue would be to remove all exterior classroom doors and block/brick in the voids. “This would be a very expensive mediation that Seminole County cannot afford,” commented Earnest.

Power bills at both campuses typically average around $52,000 a month. A new facility’s power bill would average about $17,000 a month. This alone is a savings of $400,000 or more per year. 

Another major issue that comes with so many exterior doors is water leakage. Water leakage through or around doors can contribute to indoor air quality (IAQ) problems by supplying moisture for mold growth. This leakage can often remain concealed within the wall system or flooring and not become evident until concealed wall components experience significant deterioration and mold growth

Safety  and separation

Schools are designed with student safety in mind. They are designed with fewer exterior entrances, better security features, improved sight lines for monitoring, etc. With the current health pandemic in mind, newer facilities are also designed to provide better indoor air quality and reduce the number of allergens and pathogens in the buildings. 

The safe separation of students will be a top priority in a new Pre-K-12 facility.  Earnest commented, “We will have a design where the younger students are totally separated from the older students. We can also group and separate the students in traditional grade spans – Pre-K-fifth, sixth-eighth, and ninth-twelfth. Safety is a concern with our present schools with more than 163 exterior doors. A new school this proposed size would have less than 25 exterior doors.” 

View the proposal

A complete and detailed analysis of both schools and the plans for a new facility,  prepared by the Altman and Barrett Architects team, can be found on the school system website,  under the new school tab. 

Teams of teachers will begin meeting with architects after Spring Break to get their input. A series of public forums will also be scheduled and hosted by the Board of Education as the ESPLOST vote nears. 

Supt. Earnest added, “In conclusion, Seminole County  students will  not be the only ones who benefit from a new state-of-the-art school facility for all grades. The social and economic strength of a community are greatly influenced by the school system. Good schools mean well-prepared citizens, a strong labor market, and an inviting atmosphere for living and working. Having quality facilities sends the message that a quality education has been, is and will always continue to be a top priority  in our community.”



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