Local News

School board tours all county campuses

SEBRING - A two-day tour of every school campus in the district concluded Friday for the school board, Superintendent Wally Cox and other district administrators.

During the annual facility walk-through tours, principals show the board a variety of recommended projects for their schools, ranging from safety issues, to plumbing, flooring, painting, window replacement, electrical and technology needs and equipment upgrades.

Prior to the Friday afternoon walk-through at Woodlawn Elementary, Principal Melissa Blackman noted that her school has 562 students and one second-grade class that exceeds the state class size limit.

She also noted that since last year's walk-through the school's third computer lab was completed. Now the school has three "full computer labs" with 28 computers in each lab, Blackman said.

Blackman noted a few safety needs - including new gates and fencing and additional exterior intercom speakers - that were recommended by the Highlands County Sheriff's Office during its safety review of the campus.

She noted the school has one classroom, a first-grade class, with a carpeted floor. Blackman requested a tile floor for the room because it is a challenge trying to keep the carpet clean with a classroom of first-graders.

Her project list for various locations in the school included vertical blinds repairs, restroom tile and plumbing replacement, painting, window replacement and additional drops for computer connections.

Cox said they visited eight schools Wednesday and nine Friday.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt said they previously used three days to tour all the schools.

"We found with the shrinking amount of capital dollars it just takes us less time to go through the schools," he said.

The lists have been a little bit shorter, Averyt said. The principals are trying to prioritize their needs because they know the school district doesn't have enough money.

A lack of facilities funding is a statewide problem, not just in Highlands County, he said.

The millage rate for capital expenses, which was 2 mils five years ago, is now at 1.5 mils, Averyt said.

"A lot of that money was used for maintenance," he said. "We used to spend $2 million a year to do all 17 schools, now we are down to about $250,000. It's a critical area for every district."


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