Officials with the School District of Pickens County are considering alternative options for the conversion Easley High School into a new middle school.
As the district prepares for the opening of a new Easley High School building next fall it will also prepare for a new project to convert the old building into a new middle school starting in the summer of 2012. The current plan, approved by the school board in November, would involve the demolition of a portion of the building that was built in 1939.
Easley residents opposed to the demolition of the building because of its historical significance attended a school board meeting Monday to urge the district to reconsider the plans.
"My hopes of course are that the board will take to heart what was said Monday night and consider other options," Don Youngblood said. Youngblood, a 1959 graduate of Easley High School, was one of ten individuals to address the school board Monday night.
Building Administrator Bob Folkman is working with the architectural firm McMillan Pazdan Smith to determine what can be done to preserve the building.
"The school district is aggressively exploring favorable options to resolve this issue," Folkman said.
Time, cost and maintenance are the factors officials need to take into consideration when seeking alternatives to the existing plan.
According to Board of Trustees Chairman Alex Saitta the original cost for construction of new schools in the district was estimated at $158 million, but after several requests from individual towns it has grown to $374 million. The original completion date for the project was set for 2012 but has been pushed back to 2014. Additionally, if alternate plans increase the square footage of the new middle school the district will have to add custodial staff in order to properly maintain the building.
"The district doesn't have any more money for construction, future maintenance costs and can't afford any more delays in the building schedule," Saitta said.
Superintendant Henry Hunt said any alternate plans would need to meet the current schedule and budget.
"In order to stay on our timeline we're going to need to start work there in June," Hunt said. "No decisions have been made to change anything at this point."
Chad Stewart, a 2006 graduate, said the building holds great historical significance for the community because it was built using funds from the Works Progress Administration. The building was built by Daniel Construction which was the largest construction company in the world at the time of his death in 1964, Stewart said.
"Everybody in town has gone through that building," Stewart said. "It was rough around the edges, but we're proud of it."
Mayor Larry Bagwell, another advocate for the preservation of the building, said it was unfortunate that the community was not made aware of the plans earlier in the process.
"I'm getting all kinds of emails from people in the community wondering what they can do," Bagwell said.
Bagwell said he hopes to meet with district officials to discuss alternative plans in the near future.
"I'm hoping that the board will listen to the public," Bagwell said. "I'm elated that they might reconsider, that's great news for the community."