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Oconee School Board asked to approve $2.6 Million for Rocky Branch Elementary renovations

The following is reprinted with permission from the Oconee County Observations blog

By Lee Becker

***Last Of Planned ELOST Construction Projects***

Oconee County Schools Superintendent Jason Branch on Monday will ask the Oconee County Board of Education to award a $2.6 million contract to Amacher Bros. Construction Company of Atlanta for modifications and renovations to Rocky Branch Elementary School.

Branch also will ask the Board to spend $732,954 for purchase of five 48-passenger buses and one 72-passenger bus from Thomas Peach State Freightliner, based in Norcross.

Branch also is asking the Board to approve spending $84,138 for 111 teacher laptops and $90,879 for a data recovery system. Virtucom And Prosys, both with offices in Atlanta, are the respective designated bid recipients.

School administrators presented Branch’s requests to the Board at the Board’s work session on Monday (Feb. 5).

The Rocky Branch Elementary School construction is the final item on the School system’s five-year construction plan and the final construction project presented to voters leading up to their approval in March of 2021of the one-cent-on-a-dollar Education Local Option Sales Tax.

According to the abstract of the Request for Proposals shared by Oconee County Schools with the public, the modifications and renovations at Rocky Branch Elementary will include such things as floor and ceiling replacement, roof repairs and replacement, and landscape improvements.

The total cost, including design services, is $3.2 million, the Board was told.

Discussion At Meeting

The Rocky Branch contract was one of few items at the Board work session on Monday, which ran just less than 30 minutes, that produced Board discussion.

Ricketson With Board 2/5/2024

When Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities for Oconee County Schools, completed his Operations Report, Board Chair Kim Argo asked if “we have used Amacher Bros. before?”

Ricketson said Amacher built Dove Creek Elementary School, the 10-classroom addition at Colham Ferry Elementary School, and the eight-classroom addition at High Shoals Elementary School.

It also is completing the 12-classroom addition at Malcom Bridge Elementary School.

Ricketson told Board Member Tim Burgess that work on the Rocky Branch Elementary School project will begin as soon as school ends on May 17 and will be finished by July 15.

“They are the lowest,” Board Member Amy Parrish said, “but, remind me, there's more, there's a scoring system, right, that's involved? It's not just always the lowest bidder.”

Ricketson said that Oconee County Schools has a “rubric” that is used, and price accounts for only 30 percent of all of the available points. Also included is “history of work with Oconee County Schools, their financial reports, their safety ratings, how they intend to approach the project.”

Oconee County Schools received four bids, with Amacher Bros., Grahl Construction of Athens, and Kevin Price Construction of Oconee County submitting bids of $2,637,000, $2,641,450, and $2,643,157, respectively.

Parrish did not ask Ricketson for the scoring sheet for the four bids, and it is not included in the materials released by the Board for the meeting.

At the Sept. 18 meeting of the Board last year, Branch asked for and received approval of an application for a Capital Outlay Project with the state for renovation and modification at Rocky Branch Elementary School.

Slide Presented To Board Before Vote

9/18/2023

“What this does is allow us to take the first step and draw it down to State funds necessary to do the project at Rocky Branch,” Branch told the Board.

“We need to move forward with that in order to be able to draw down these funds should we determine that's the next appropriate step going forward,” he said.

The single sheet presented to the Board at the meeting shows the total cost of the renovations and modifications as $3,510,500, with the state being asked to contribute $526,216.

Capital Outlay Application

The actual application for state funds, which I obtained via an open records request, shows the $526,216 in state funding, but lists total construction costs of $1,490,170.

According to the abbreviated Request for Proposal (RFP) on the Oconee County Schools website, “the project consists of flooring replacements (carpet, LVT, & athletic), ceiling replacement, translucent canopy replacement, painting, lighting replacement, drinking fountain replacement, kitchen HVAC, kitchen hood replacement, serving line replacement, roof replacement, roof repairs, landscape improvements, and grassing.”

The Capital Outlay Application does not include the roof, the translucent canopy replacement, the kitchen HVAC, and the landscape improvements and grassing that is included in the RFP.

The RFP abstract does not list restroom modernization and carpentry work included in the Capital Outlay Application.

The full Request for Proposals is not available locally and is available with payment of a fee.

Rocky Branch Elementary School consists of four buildings accessible off Hog Mountain Road, but, according to the Oconee County Schools 5-Year Local Facilities Plan, which I also obtained through an open records request, the facility is designated as two buildings.

Building 2010 was constructed in 2003, and Building 2020 was constructed in 2009.

The state funding sought with the Fiscal Year 2025 Capital Outlay Project Application approved by the Board on Sept. 18 of last year was designated for work on Building 2010.

Buses, Computer

In other action on Monday, Associate Superintendent Dallas LeDuff told the Board that Branch is recommending that it approve at the meeting on the upcoming Monday the purchase of the six buses at the price submitted by Thomas Peach State Freightliner.

Oconee County Schools received three bids for 48-passenger buses but only two for the 72-passenger bus, and Peach State was low bidder for both types of bus.

LeDuff told Board Member Tim Burgess that the six buses will be the only ones the Board will be asked to purchase this year.

Ryan White, Chief Technology Officer for Oconee County Schools, said Branch is recommending that the Board approve on Monday the bids by Virtucom to provide the 111 teacher laptops and the bid of $90,879 by Prosys for the services and equipment for a data recovery system.

Virtucom submitted the low bid among six 14 vendors, and ProSys submitted the second low bid among three vendors for the data recovery system.

The low bidder, DataPivor, was judged “not to have met the RFP requirements.”

All of the requests for spending Branch is asking the Board to approve on Monday–the Rocky Branch construction, the buses, and the technology-- will be funded from both ELOST revenue and the General Fund, the Board was told.

Construction Update

Ricketson told the Board that construction on the Instructional Support Center on North Main Street in Watkinsville is progressing.

Referring to a photograph projected on the screen, he said “from the back of the building as you can see the windows are going in. The brick is going on the front of the building leaving, only one side left to do brick.”

“Drywall is being installed on the inside along with continuing rough-ins for mechanical, HVAC, audio visual, and all the systems going into the building.”

At Malcom Bridge Elementary, he said, “we're doing final cleaning now. We are still waiting on the generator to arrive. It'll be done in plenty of time, though, for us to open for the new school year. We're in really great shape on that building."

Ricketson said “we have a the district wide generator project. We posted that on January the 26th, and proposals will be due on Feb. 23rd. We'll be bringing the results of that proposal to the February Board meeting for action.”

Audio Visual At Instructional Support Center

As he mentioned the audio visual installation at the Instructional Support Center, Ricketson turned to White, who had spoken of that earlier.

Argo had asked White, following his comments, “can you describe the capabilities and measurements that are being taken in our new Instructional Support Center to videotape or live stream our meetings once we get in that building?”

“We're going to have multiple cameras, either in the ceiling or on the walls in the boardroom of the ISC," White said. "We'll also have stationary microphones for everyone that's up front--all the Board members and Dr. Branch.”

“Then we'll also be live stream ready as well,” he added. The Board video records, but does not live stream, its meeting at present.

“What about if we have a huge crowd?” Argo asked. “Is there any way for overflow, that they can hear it if they're out in the hall or wherever?”

“There’s several conference rooms or meeting rooms outside of the boardroom that are overflow rooms in the event we do have a high attendance evening,” White said. “And that Board meeting is designed to be streamed in the building itself as well.”

The board room is designed to seat 118 persons.

School Choice

Suzanne Korngold, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, reported that School Choice has closed and “128 applicants were looking to transfer” from their assigned school.

That number is down from 379 last year, when Dove Creek Middle School opened.

All of the requests were granted, Korngold said, as had been true last year. All of Oconee County’s 12 schools are under capacity.

Dove Creek Elementary School was the big net gainer, adding 22 students. Malcom Bridge Elementary School lost 16 students, the largest number for any of the schools.

North Oconee High School lost nine students and Oconee County High School gained that same number.

Parents and students moving to a new school must provide their own transportation.

Communications Director Steven Colquitt, in his “social media update” to the Board, said “I'll do the math for you. The three social media platforms, on average, for any post we put out, 7,499 impressions.”

“We're really happy with the numbers,” he said. “We continue to see growth in impressions. We continue to see growth in followers. And we thank you, the community, the parents, the students, the teachers, even other districts. We're seeing them following us as well.”


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