A small group of parents, administrators and community members gathered Monday at Robert F. Morehead Middle School to discuss the future of Dollarway School District’s master facilities plan. Melvin Bryant, deputy superintendent, outlined ongoing and upcoming renovations to various schools within the district.
“Every three years you look at the plan and every year you scratch off what you have completed and then put a leave on the plan for what you have to do or planned to do,” said Bryant about the district’s 10-year master facilities plan.
Officials estimate that about 900 students have left the district in the past 10 years due to what they deem as the “economic downturn of Jefferson County.”
The loss has prompted the district to do what they describe as “intra-consolidate four campuses to three campuses by moving the high school campus from Dollarway Road to another existing school site,” according to the master facilities plan summary.
“One of the things students look forward to is good facilities, because it can be a drawing factor,” Bryant said. “We’ve made a lot of renovations this year — upgrades in our gym, our football field, the area around our football field and the driveway around our field. Hopefully, everything that we do positive will bring students back to us.”
James Matthews Elementary is the primary elementary campus for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. Robert F. Morehead Middle School is the former Townsend Park Elementary School campus housing grades fifth through eighth. And the Robert F. Morehead Middle School is the Dollarway High School location serving students in grades ninth through twelfth. Dollarway High School is still used for various activities and events. In October of 2017, the athletics facility underwent updates to the stadium bleachers, concession stands, dressing rooms and installation of gates and a ticket booth.
Dollarway School District has applied for partnership funding through the Department of Education to fit the bill for the master facilities plan. The district is currently awaiting approval for the funds. Bryant was not able to provide an exact amount of how much the renovations for the plan will cost.
“On this particular project, anytime you have a project that’s set aside for what we call warm, safe and dry, it has a high probability of being funded,” Bryant said.
The master facilities plans include the completion of a bus loop at James Matthew Elementary School and roof and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning) renovations at Robert F. Morehead Middle School.
“Hearing about these renovations literally has me ecstatic,” said James Matthew Elementary School principal Leondra Williams-Savage. “There have been renovations going on at James Matthews Elementary School since I got here from the painting to the upgrades within the building. A number of things have taken place.”
Williams-Savage says the revamping of campuses throughout the district have been beneficial to not only students, but also teachers.
“The teachers appreciate the upgrades and the changes,” she said. “So, it has had a positive impact on the climate and the culture in the building.”
In the coming months, the district is expected to remove campuses, including Pinecrest Elementary School, which hasn’t been in use in several years. Bryant says the campus will be sold for current market value once it’s demolished. He also added that the donation of Altheimer campuses and property to the city of Altheimer is currently in progress, thus leaving the district with no ownership of any of the properties by the end of February.
“We no longer have schools in Altheimer, so those vacant buildings are being donated to the city of Altheimer,” Bryant said. “The buildings we had here are being used by the city that we are no longer using.”