Work is wrapping up on the new Crab Orchard Elementary School. 

Kim Chamberlin with Upland Design Group expects the new portion of the school to be ready for students in the next two months. The school system identified a few projects in the 2001 portion of the school that would wrap the project up, but the board deferred action pending approval of the Cumberland County Commission.

“If a contingency item is outside the scope of the original project, then we need to go back to the county commission for their approval,” said Kacee Harris, chief financial officer. “The items we’re looking at are to make that existing building better and make it as new as we can so it fits in and the little kids feel like they’re getting a bright new school, as well.”

Projects include painting the exterior to better match the new portion, adding safety tile to hallway ramps, replacing rusting exterior classroom doors with windows and replacing the roof. 

The $10.4 million project began with about $250,000 in contingency funds. The school board has approved spending some of that on paving the entrance road, moving the internet connection from the old building to the new facility, and buying and installing scoreboards and painting the floor of the new gym. About $143,000 remains in the fund.

But the project began approximately $1.1 million over budget estimates. The school system put $750,000 toward the deficit, and the county covered the remaining portion from its debt service fund balance. 

“The county commission approved the project to build the new portion. These, technically, are outside the scope of the original project,” Harris said. 

Director of Schools Janet Graham said everyone agreed the projects need to be done. There had been hope the the existing roof would only need some repairs, but contractors evaluated it earlier in the week and determined a replacement would be a better fix at an estimated cost of $100,000.

“There’s no fluff in this,” Graham said. “I think it’s in our best interest to go back to the county commission and get their blessing.”

The additional projects amount to about $172,000. If approved by the county commission, the board would still have to decide how to use the available funds.

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said, “We’re not asking for extra money. We’re just asking for their permission to use the contingency funds on the portion of the building we are not tearing down.”

Harris said if the projects are approved, the board could pick and choose projects or possibly fund the shortfall from its budget reserves.

“If the commission is on board with spending this money, we could do part of the door replacement, but not all,” Harris said. “Or we could see if we could find the remaining money in our budget.”

Chamberlin said he believes the work can be done within the existing contracts, which would speed it up. Contractors will be on site for another 90 days, he estimated. Once students and faculty move into the new facility, the original building will be demolished. 

If the school system must bid the projects, that would take additional time. 

Tom Netherton, 6th District representative, moved to approve the projects pending approval of the commission, supported by Jim Inman, 1st District representative. The motion was unanimously approved. 

The budget committee of the Cumberland County Commission meets Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 4:30 p.m. at the Cumberland County Courthouse, 2 N. Main St.

The board also approved installing railing at the Cumberland County High School stadium on the Stanley St. stairs and the steps from the bleachers into the concessions area. The $5,850 cost will come from contingency funds.

Automotive classrooms at both CCHS and Stone Memorial High School will soon be named the Dave Kirk Automotive classrooms following unanimous approval by the board. Kirk and his Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealership support a variety of community causes throughout the year, including the Keys to Success attendance program. For 16 years, Dave Kirk Automotive has awarded a new car to a Cumberland County high school student. 

Graham said plaques would be ready to present during the first drawing for the annual attendance incentive program in October.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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