I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Do We Really Need to Build a Brand New Middle School?

...Or should we plan prudently, address the issues in a different way, and save $30+ Million?

Do we really need to build a brand new, $35 Million Dollar Middle School in Escambia County right now?
Is this the best way to spend $35 Million Dollars?

We desperately need, at a minimum, two new Elementary Schools, in order to alleviate the current massive over-crowding at Helen Caro, Blue Angels, Beulah, and Pine Meadow Elementary Schools.
We need these elementary schools yesterday—and everybody knows this!

(Beulah elementary has 18 portables out back; Pine Meadow has at least 10!)

But why build a brand new middle school to fix this elementary school problem? 

We could solve all of these facilities  issues with an immediate WFHS site-swap with Woodham middle and the construction of two brand new K-8 facilities (one to address overcrowding at Beulah, Pine Meadow, and Ransom---and one to address  lingering overcrowding at Helen Caro, Blue Angels, and Jim Bailey)  --but apparently K-8s are no longer considered as viable alternatives, even though we had a West-side K-8 facility in the 5 year work plan for a decade until it was removed from the facilities work plan in 2012.

I think a K-8 out near the new Navy Federal was/is a solid idea.

So on July 11, 2013, after meeting with the top brass at NFCU-- I brought a proposal to the board to build a state of the art K-8facility in Beulah by the ever- expanding NFCU headquarters in order  to address  expansive growth at Beulah, Pine Meadow, and Ransom. 

We could have partnered with NFCU, and potentially lured some newly transplanted employees of NFCU into buying here in Escambia County instead of moving to Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, or Baldwin County—as had been the trend for most of those incoming employees with school-aged children according to NFCU officials.
Nope, that idea was shot down—but I was told (and it is inthe minutes) that plans were in the works to get an elementary school built out there to address the overcrowding at Beulah and Pine Meadow.

Two years later ---and the new elementary school was never built.  Beulah and Pine Meadow are still


Now the push is to build a new Middle School in Beulah.  But Why?

If we do the obvious, logical move that has been discussed at meetings and in one-on-one meetings between me and district administrators on multiple occasions, we can free up an adequate amount of middle school capacity while simultaneously solving other district facility issues as well---- saving as much as  $32.5  Million in the process!!!

Here is how:

We should, as quickly as we can, directly swap Woodham Middle School with West Florida High School—thus giving WFHS the athletic and other academic facilities that school desperately needs, while simultaneously getting a much better utilization % of the Woodham facility.  (Currently, Woodham Middle has only 695 students, resulting in less than 50% occupancy/use of that facility)

Next, once Woodham Middle is re-located to the previous WFHS site, it will have room for an additional 500-600 more students in addition to the 695 Woodham middle school students that are coming over from the previous site.  There is the excess middle school capacity we need for the continued growth in the Northwest Escambia County corridor (Beulah/Pine Forest/Cantonment) right there.

Brown Barge can stay where it is, and with the addition of a gymnasium and track, BBMS will have the full complement of what it needs facility-wise.  

Moving BBMS does not need to happen; we can spend less than $3Million on some improvements, provide middle school capacity via the WFHS/WMS swap, and alleviate overcrowding at four district elementary schools that have been badly overcrowded for years on end by building two new elementary schools.

In addition to saving $Millions by not moving BBMS and building a new Middle School, keeping BBMS where it is keeps at least one (1) Middle school in district 3.

The current course, which I oppose, requires the district to borrow money and spend it as indicated below.  I support alternatives #1 or #2--  These alternatives save the district Millions of dollars:  All three are listed below:

Current District Plan                              Alternative Plan #1                Alternative Plan #2
New Middle School in Beulah:                New K-8 in Beulah:              New Elementary in Beulah:  
Land cost $2Million                                  Land cost $2Million               Land cost  $2Million         
Construction cost $35 Million            Construction cost $30 Million    Construction Cost $18 Million
New Elementary in Cantonment               New West-side K-8:                New Westside Elementary
Land Cost $0                                             Land Cost-unknown                       Land Cost-unknown
Construction Cost                                     Construction Cost                            Construction Cost
$18 Million                                               $30 Million                                      $18 Million
New Westside Elementary                          Swap WFHS/WMS                           Swap WFHS/WMS
Land Cost-unknown                                    $1.5 Million                                        $1.5 Million
Construction Costs:                               BBMS Facilities Upgrades             BBMS Facilities Upgrades
$18 Million                                                $2.5 Million                                        $2.5 Million
1.5 Million

Total at least $74.5 Million                    total at least $66 Million              Total at least $42.0 Million


Anonymous said...

Do you really want 5 year olds going to school and riding the bus with 14-15 year olds? Why don't you just resign your part-time position on the school board and throw your name in the hat for superintendent?

Jacqueline said...

I went to a K-8 school growing up. What's the big deal, Anonymous?

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anon--the K-8 concept is utilized throughout the country, with great results. Up until very recently, we had a K-8 in the North end of the county, and up until 2012, there was a K-8 in the planning documents slated for construction in SW Escambia County to alleviate the most over-capacity Middle School in our district, Jim Bailey, and also to alleviate the most over-crowded Elementary School in our district, Helen Caro. For reasons unknown, the K-8 concept has fallen out of favor with the current administration of the district. But this does not mean the concept is flawed. And oh, by the way, there are buses that serve Elementary Schools right now in Escambia County that serve very young students, and some Elementary students who are 1, 2, or 3 years over-age. I don't mean to burst your bubble, but this is reality already and as long as discipline is enforced on the buses, as it should be, the issue can be managed. Have a nice day :)

Anonymous said...

Hence, yet again, why Escambia Public Schools are terrible! And, I agree, K-8 are a great idea. My child has attended several since Kindergarten and it was a beautiful success. They are typically separated to some degree and there are even options to have things like a pairing of big brother/little brother (or sister). I always thought growing up in Mobile Public Schools couldn't get any worse (I graduated in 1998 and my high school did not even have air conditioning yet), but Escambia County makes them look pretty nice. I even tried to give Escambia a chance with the Charter Schools here, but nope, they were dumb enough to shut that down too. They need to wake up and take a look at schools today and realize that what worked 20-30 years ago does not still work today! Improvements and new methods have been proven to work. Instead of trying to force these old ideas to work in a modern time they should take a step back and open their minds to what children now need as well as what is best for them. Just like I promised the School Board, my children have been dis enrolled from public schools and now attend private schools. Education is important to me, and it is something I refuse to sacrifice even the smallest amount on. Imagine how many more children they are loosing, as well, to their poor decisions.