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Ringgold out to fix buildings, image

| Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

The Ringgold School Board this week voted to begin repairing buildings next year.

Next, the board will concentrate on enhancing curriculum and rebuilding its reputation, said Director Chris Carroll, whose committee memberships include facilities and curriculum.

The Ringgold School Board approved more than $6 million in combined renovations to the high school and Ringgold Elementary School North.

The vote was taken during the board's reorganization meeting, in which seven directors were sworn in. The group comprised returning directors, newcomers and one board member who was appointed to the seat he unsuccessfully sought in the election.

Jason Gerard was appointed to a two-year, at-large seat. Larry Mauro – who won both at-large and regional board positions – chose to again represent Region I.

Only Mary Ann Bulko, who was again elected president, and director Gene Kennedy are in the midst of four-year terms.

The election was seen as a referendum on district buildings, namely a battle over whether to construct a new middle school or renovate the shuttered Donora and Monongahela elementary centers.

The board is advancing plans to construct a middle school to replace Ringgold Middle School in Finleyville, which has for years been shifting because of a pyrite beneath it. The board Tuesday discussed plans for the middle school, agreeing to prepare documentation to file next year if Gov. Tom Corbett opts to lift a moratorium on the state Planning and Construction Workbook. Known as PlanCon, the program is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for state reimbursement of costs for new building construction.

The proposed middle school would house students in grades five through eight.

For now, the district is concentrating on renovations to Ringgold Elementary School North and the high school.

Those project costs will be covered through the district's capital fund – preserving money in the budget equal to 4 mills in property tax revenue to help pay for middle school construction, Carroll said.

Carroll was again appointed to the facilities planning, curriculum, and security and safety committees.

The elementary school project has a $4.175 million ticket price. The bulk of the cost, $2.6 million, will fund construction of six permanent classrooms. They would replace modular classroom buildings placed there two years ago.

The board also approved construction of a new kitchen at the elementary center.

The board approved the first of three phases of work being eyed for the high school.

Phase I will involve enhanced security and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades, Carroll said.

External doors will be replaced with heavy duty security doors. A security door and guard area will be added at the main entrance.

Carroll said front doors at the parking lot will be open for students at the beginning of the day, then locked from the inside during the day. Visitors will be required to enter through the main entrance, to the left of the parking lot.

Air valves throughout the building will be replaced to improve ventilation in each classroom.

In addition, new fixtures and flush valves will be installed in the rest rooms, which will be made more handicap accessible.

Three hundred lockers will be replaced at the high school.

The high school project is expected to cost $1.976 million. Like the elementary school work, high school improvements will be covered through the capital fund.

The board is considering second and third phases at the high school. Phase II would extend five years and include shifting some science classrooms and improving the locker rooms. It is ticketed at $2.894 million.

Phase III, six to eight years down the road, would include replacing the HVAC system.

It is estimated at $5.661 million.

With a plan on buildings on the horizon, the board can turn its attention to curriculum, Carroll said.

With a new curriculum director in place, the district will work to improve standardized test scores, Carroll said.

“Buildings don't education children,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he anticipates and encourages growth. He said that only happens by welcoming new families and businesses to the district's communities. That work begins with the board members, he added.

“We have a long (row) to hoe to bring our image back,” Carroll said. “Over the past three to four years, our reputation hasn't been very good. The reputation of our board has really taken a hard hit.

“The confidence the people had in our past board was very low. I think this election spoke very loud where we should be going.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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