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Architect reveals design for new high school

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — The possible design for the new Americus-Sumter County High School was unveiled at Monday night’s work session of the Sumter County Board of Education by Greg Smith, architect with James Buckley and Associates. After input from administrators and citizens, the board is expected to adopt the design plan so it can be submitted to the state board of education for approval.
Smith explained that, working the board’s facilities committee, they had managed to work down from a $60 million, 309,400 sq. ft. project to a $45 million, 224,771 sq. ft. project.
The conceptual floor plan places the common, public areas at the front of the new high school facility, completely separated from the classroom areas.
The plan includes 72 instructional units (classrooms), three full-size, single-story gyms. The cafeteria is an open design and overlooks the practice field.
Rick Barnes, a member of the committee, urged his fellow board members to study the design and get ready to make a decision soon.
Smith said another huge savings was found by blending two types of HVAC. Other facts of the design are that all classrooms have windows to the outside, allowing in natural light, and there is an administrative office for each wing.
In other business, the board heard a presentation from Crystal Perry, Sumter County agent in charge of the 4-H program. She requested that the board make a loan of a school bus and pay fuel costs for three field trips each year: one to Rock Eagle, one to Houston County, and one to summer camp (this year it’s to Tybee Island). She said the 4-H program would provide a driver for these trips.
Board member Edith Green questioned Perry about whether all the 4-H members on the field trips are Sumter County School students. Perry said the 4-H program is open to all students in Sumter County, whether public or private or home schooled, and that 95 percent of the 4-Hers are from Sumter County Schools. Board member Alice Green also voiced her concern. “I have a problem if these are not all Sumter County Schools students.” Board member Jim Reid reminded the Greens that the parents of all the 4-H students pay school taxes, too, even if they don’t attend Sumter County Schools.
Tracy Monts, transportation director for Sumter County Schools, addressed the board about a pressing problem: a shortage of bus drivers. She said she is currently short 10 drivers due to the flu. “We should have 50 buses running the routes but we’re running 40.” She said they have all been driving, including herself and a couple of her staff members as well as mechanics, and they are somehow managing to the get the students to school on time.
Monts said she’s been advertising for new bus drivers for a while and she gets a great response each time. “But the problem is most of them don’t pass a background check,” she said. She added that the system is losing many drivers who leave for better paying jobs.
“It’s stressful for the drivers and staff,” she said, “but we’re getting them there.”
Monts told the board that they do their own training on their own field, which has to be inspected by the state. Her problem is getting someone to test her new drivers. She said it must be a certified, third-party tester and she has encountered problems scheduling a tester from the Dougherty and Muscogee County testers.
Rick Barnes asked Monts if she can get someone to come and inspect the field and she said she knows someone. Barnes told her to find out the cost and let the board know and “we’ll remove that roadblock.”
Board chair, Dr. Mike Busman, asked if this is local, state or national problem, and Monts said it’s a problem everywhere.

This is the floor plan provided by James Buckley and Associates.