By ALICIA LEONARD
The Walton County School Board met for a series of workshops on the afternoon of Dec. 9, followed by their last regular meeting of the 2013 year.
The board entertained architects and construction firms working on the project in the two workshops and got to get an eye on the final plans for the Walton Middle School (WMS) renovation.
The project will demolish 80 percent of the campus, leaving two buildings behind(buildings 500 and 900) and produce a vision of an integrated design that builders say will highlight some of the architecture of historical homes and buildings. Items such as four columns at the entrance, various gables, some types of siding and diamond cut shingles, reminiscent of local historical homes in the area, are ways the builders hope to integrate the new school design into its neighborhood.
The board also discussed various scenarios as to what would be the most cost effective way to house students during the 18-month construction. The scenario that seemed to be the most prudent to board members was to move the student body to the WISE Center, next to Walton High School in the interim.
During the discussion of costs associated with the rebuild, Facilities Director Mark Gardner told the board that demolition, permitting, moving furniture and student items to the WISE Center as well as upgrading the center to make it hospitable to students were all factored into the budget for the new school.
Board members seemed a little overwhelmed by the total cost, but after much discussion in all three meetings about alternatives, such as buying new property, rebuilding at the WISE location or trying to keep students at Walton Middle School during the construction, and after factoring costs such as a new design, demolition, utility placement for a new property and other factors, decided the $35,293,259 figure was acceptable and passed the request for approval unanimously at the board meeting. Asbestos abatement alone for WMS will come in around $200,000 according to Gardner.
The school will also have many more safety aspects than it does at this time and Gardner said safety was always utmost in the designer’s mind when working on the project.
Gardner told the board the project, “encompasses a high regard for safety, provides for the current population and with an eye for a little future growth. Expanded parking and improve traffic flow on Bruce Avenue and in the community. This keeps everyone focused on a good design and a wonderful project we can all be proud of. This is a 60 year investment.”
The new school will be designed to hold 1,151 student stations, allowing for future growth in the student population in DeFuniak Springs.
Teachers from all districts later flooded the room to accept mini-grant awards from the Walton Education Foundation. The mini-grants were awarded by the donation-only group not affiliated with the district after teachers showed their grant writing skills when applying for the awards.
The board passed their consent and action agenda items unanimously. In closing they wished retirees well and students and faculty a Merry Christmas.
To learn more about the district, go to http://www.walton.k12.fl.us.
By ALICIA LEONARD