J.C. Booth Middle’s building future gaining clarity

A decision is not yet made, but the Board of Education is getting closer to selecting the path for the future of J.C. Booth Middle School. At Monday night’s meeting, members narrowed down the options for what to do to modernize the school to two choices.

Over recent meetings, the board has been presented with five different options for the future of J.C. Booth Middle School as they consider its age and a future need for a new elementary school to serve the west side of the county, including one option that called for a new elementary school building with a renovated Booth, one with a new building for Booth and an elementary school in its renovated building, and one with both a new Booth and elementary school.

The board decided it is time to drill down to two options. Option one focuses on renovating Booth, and option two calls for a totally new building.

Superintendent Dr. Jody Barrow pinpointed those two options as his personal preference.

“This is just Jody’s personal opinion, but I like option one and option two if we narrow from five to two,” he said. “One and two would be the ones that I think make the most sense to me.”

Option two would also open up the current Booth building as a future asset for the school system. At an estimated value of roughly $12 million, it nearly equals out the cost between the two options and offers additional flexibility, whether it is leased out, renovated later for a future elementary school, or possibly reworked into another Center of Innovation.

Board Chair Scott Hollowell said he liked the flexibility option two provides when looked at over a 30-year projection.

“We have another building, an asset that we can do something with that gives us some flexibility over the next couple decades,” he said. “It seems financially, when you add it all up, pretty close.”

Option two would also make the transition much easier on Booth staff, faculty, and students. A renovation of the school would take roughly 26-27 months and need to be done in three major phases to limit disruptions to learning, whereas a new school could be completely built from the ground up in 18 to 19 months.

“I think we’re underselling the disruption that renovating Booth would cause for two years,” said Hollowell.

Both of the popular options call for the renovation and reopening of Tyrone Elementary, possibly as soon as fall 2020, an idea met with support by all.

“I like the idea of re-opening Tyrone,” said Leonard Presberg. “I think it solves some of the redistricting issues on the west side, and I think it’s good for that community.”

Barrow agreed that reopening Tyrone makes good financial sense.

“To construct a new elementary school, we’re talking probably $18 million, so we think we’re getting a better value in spending $5, 6, 7 million in renovating and updating Tyrone,” said Barrow.

The Board of Education could vote on a building plan as early as their March 11 meeting.

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