School additions to now cost $18 mil.

By: By Amber Hatten -

LAURINBURG — School officials got their first look at the plans for the additions to Sycamore Lane and Laurel Hill Elementary schools during this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

Randy Baker with Pinnacle Architecture and project manager Roger Ammons presented school board members with the drawings of the additions that are planned for the elementary schools as part of Phase II of consolidation. The additions come with a new price — $18 million.

The plans show an additional 26 classrooms being added to Sycamore Lane, with a separate entrance for pre-K through second-grade students along with an expanded bus lot and parent pick-up lanes. Laurel Hill Elementary School will have 18 classrooms, a new gymnasium along with new parking lots and parent pick-up lanes according to the drawings.

The additions were slightly bigger than originally anticipated because of the passage of House Bill 13, which requires schools to decrease the number of students in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. The legislation forced Baker and Ammons to increase the number of classrooms to accommodate the new requirements — 1:18 ratio in kindergarten; 1:16 in first grade; 1:17 in second grade and 1:17 in third grade. Schools aren’t allowed to go more than six students over that ratio. Currently, Scotland allows one teacher per 21 students in each of those grade levels.

“Our original plan at Sycamore Lane was to build 24 classrooms, but after counting the existing classrooms and talking with the principal we decided to recommend an additional two classrooms,” Ammons said. “We didn’t want to move in day one at capacity, we left a little bit of room for growth.”

Two additions, 10 classrooms each, will be added to both wings of the school, with a four-classroom addition being added to the middle of the building. The 44,000 square feet of additions at Sycamore Lane will cost $7 million with another $500,000 being needed for the expanded parking lots and parent pick-up lane.

Laurel Hill will expand by 37,000 square feet with the addition of 18 classrooms, a new gym and expanded bus lot and parent pick-up lane. Those additions will cost around $6 million with another $380,000 needed for the driveways.

Sticker shock

The new $18 million price tag, which will be paid over 20 years, surprised board member Jaime Sutherland since the original estimate was in the $12 million range for the additions at both schools.

Baker said the increase in cost is due to adding 10,000 more square feet to the project and the asphalt for the driveways and parking lots.

“The quicker we can get it on the street and give it four weeks or so to bid, I think you may see the budget costs come down,” said Baker. “With the amount of square footage you’re looking at a little bit more than one third of a brand new school.”

Despite the higher cost of the additions in Phase II, Baker said the three-phase project is still on track to cost around $35 million total with the construction of the new elementary school, which will cost around $18 million.

Before the school board can advertise for bids they have to get approval from the county commissioners. Jay Toland, chief finance officer, and Superintendent Ron Hargrave will present the floor plans for the additions during the county’s budget meeting on May 31.

Once the county approves the plans and gets the bids back from contractors the project goes to the Local Government Commission (LGC) for final approval. School officials are hoping to be on the Local Government Commission’s agenda by August or September.

Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.

By Amber Hatten