The Alabama Legislature passed the 2018 Education Budget May 17, incorporating $750,000 in relief funds for the restoration of J. B. Pennington High School, extensively damaged in a fire on March 21.
Passage crowned the diligent efforts of District 9 Sen. Clay Scofield and District 11 Rep. Randall Shedd, both of whom made securing funding for the school their top priority.
“…We were determined to fight for additional money to speed up the rebuilding process at the school,” Scofield said.
“Working together with Sen. Scofield and the Blount County legislative delegation, we had good success in Montgomery,” Shedd agreed.
The 2018 Education Budget allocates $6.4 billion, divided among Alabama’s K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities. It is the largest education budget since 2008.
It will fund hiring of 152 new teachers, and includes a $13 million increase for First Class, Alabama’s nationally-recognized pre-K program, along with a $3.4 million increase for K-12 transportation and a $1 million increase for dual enrollment at community college technical education programs.
“I am particularly excited about the increased funds for dual enrollment programs at community colleges like Snead State and Wallace State,” Scofield said. “There are plenty of great job opportunities for students who are ready to work immediately after high school, as long as they have the right technical training and skills.” Restoration update
As of yesterday, according to Blount County Superintendent Rodney Green, the interior cleanup process of the fire-, smoke-, and water-damaged J. B. Pennington High school is complete.
That has involved removing damaged materials from the building, such as insulation, heating and cooling system components, and duct work, floor tile, carpet and other damaged contents. Then attic materials, walls and wood material were cleaned and repainted with a white sealer to prevent corrosion and retard any remaining smoke odors. All remaining building contents including computers, desks, and classroom paper materials were cleaned and dehumidified.
Phase 1 of actual repair work will begin within the next two weeks, and should be completed by the end of the summer, he said. It will entail repair of the damaged roof, including replacement of roof decking, bar joists, rafters, and replacement of top roofing layers and the metal roof itself.
Green said Phase 2 of restoration work will begin in early fall. It will consist of updated wiring, plumbing, sprinkler system, alarm system, and heating/cooling systems, and other items as required by building codes. New finishes to ceilings, walls, trim, and flooring are also included in Phase 2. Completion date for this scope of work is not yet determined, he said. The bottom line
Estimates for total restoration costs are above $5 million, including repairs, contents, code upgrades, and extra expenses. The system’s insurance covered the majority of repair and extra expense costs. The areas not covered involved construction upgrades beyond what was covered by insurance, including upgrades to the fire alarm and sprinkler systems, heating and cooling systems, lighting, and computer and other technology systems.
“Those upgrades are estimated between $750,000 and $1 million,” Green said, “which make the funds donated to the JBPHS resources and restoration fund and the funds from the Alabama Legislature so important.” Interim arrangements
Green said emergency arrangements for classroom space for the remaining six weeks of the school term worked well. All high school students were housed in current buildings on campus, with 7th- and 8th-graders meeting in classrooms in the elementary school and 9th- to 12th-grade students meeting in the consumer science building, the agriscience building, and the high school gym.
“Teachers and students worked extremely hard and made this work as best it could for the remainder of the school year,” Green said. He added that 16 portable classrooms promised for the latter part of the school year – but not delivered in time – will be in place and ready for the coming semester. That means all high school students will be housed within existing high school buildings for the start of the fall term.
As to a final restoration date for the damaged main high school building, Green said: “At this time, we do not have a completion date. We would like to resume classes in the newly-renovated high school building before the end of the school year next year, and we are doing everything possible to make that happen. Our goal for our students and teachers is to resume classes in a completely renovated and restored JBPHS that we can all be proud of for many years to come. Everyone – the school, the central office, and the community – is working hard to turn this tragedy into the opportunity to have an even better school.”