By MIKE WILLIAMS
The Pulaski County School Board heard good news Tuesday on needed capital improvement projects during its third work session on next year’s school budget.
Jess Shull, Director of Transportation and Operations, presented an overview on the school system’s capital improvement project list that covers everything from parking lot paving to roof work.
Shull reported that two of the school system’s top 12 projects are already underway – replacing the main switch gear at the CTE building at Pulaski County High School and building the welding lab, and building the new operations building at PCHS.
The just completed welding lab was officially opened this week during a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The switch gear and welding lab project cost nearly $864,000, while the operations building that will house the school system’s maintenance department to serve all county schools has a $1.67 million price tag.
Both projects have been funded through the school system’s capital fund.
Another six projects are to be funded by federal ESSER funds. In 2021, a third pandemic stimulus bill dubbed the American Rescue Plan was signed into law, providing public school districts across the country a whopping $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (or ESSER III) funds.
“We’re getting more done than we could have conceivably done without the ESSER funds,” said Shull, who noted the school system has until September 2024 to get the projects done through the ESSER fund program.
ESSER funds will provide some $4.6 million in capital improvement project money.
One of the six projects is already underway – converting the CTE building at the high school from electric to gas at a cost of nearly $900,000.
Four other projects are in the design phase, including replacing the roof over the band and choir departments at PCHS ($315,000), partial replacement of exterior doors and hardware at the high school ($927,000), replacing the entire roof at Critzer Elementary ($1.6 million), and replacing the roof at Snowville Elementary ($742,000).
An additional project is planned to be done with ESSER funds, but no work has begun. That includes installing a new rooftop HVAC unit over the kitchen at PCHS and converting it to gas ($165,000).
Shull said the ESSER funds “took the pressure off the school system’s capital fund.” He recommended to the school board that all these projects should be completed, then re-evaluate a new capital improvement project list.
That, he said, would allow time for the capital fund to rebound.
Paying for the operations building and switch gear/welding lab projects takes all but $264,733 of the school system’s capital fund. That “cushion” amount will be used for any unforeseen breakdowns over the coming months.
Chris Stafford, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Operations, said more funds could be coming to the school system in the form of state school construction funding. Possibly over $2.4 million, but no final figure is available yet as the General Assembly continues work on a budget.