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Weather may push back new school wings

A brick mason at J.A. Phillips Middle School install bricks around a doorway into a new classroom. Renovations inside as well as the construction of an additional wing are currently underway to move kindergarten and first grade students to the school by the year's end.

School officials say weather may push back the completion date of two additional wings on J.A. Phillips Middle School and Webster Jr. High School.

“We won’t make any decisions on anything until around July 20,” Buster Flowers, supervisor of maintenance and transportation, said. “We’ll have our progress meeting then, but this weather is affecting WJHS and Phillips, particularly Webster.”

He said heavy rains over the last few weeks has hampered completing the roof on the gymnasium at Webster, although roofing is complete over the sixth grade wing. Even though construction of the kindergarten wing and renovations inside the original structure at Phillips are ahead of schedule, no students can be moved until Webster is completed first.

Additions are currently underway at the two schools to move kindergarten and first grade students from J.E. Harper Elementary School to Phillips and move the sixth grade to WJHS.

Construction of additional classrooms and restrooms at Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School is currently underway to move those students from Central Elementary School to Lakeside and could be ready for use by the first day of school on Aug. 14.

“It may be that they push back to their completion date,” Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland Jr. said. “We can’t make that call for sure yet, because it may come in a week or two earlier. It’s just too early to make that call yet.”

The contractor estimates the completion date at Lakeside to be Aug. 29 with Phillips and Webster to follow sometime in December.

A definitive plan on what to do with Harper has not been made as of yet, Rowland said, but discussions are ongoing. When the bond issue passed in 2016 to build the additions, it was made clear that Harper must be used for educational purposes.

Rowland said Harper’s ultimate fate is a priority, but it’s too early to talk about publicly. Flowers said another issue is funding.

“We don’t know how much money we’re going to have left until we get through with everything,” he said, adding more will be known about both projects in the July meeting.

The additional wings at Phillips and Webster are being paid for through a $7 million bond issue. Lakeside’s addition is funded through the Consolidated 3 Maintenance tax.