Carver-Church Street merger hits cost bump

TUPELO – Church Street school might host elementary classes next year, after all.
The historic school scheduled to be re-purposed next year is back in the mix after the cost to prepare Carver Elementary School to accommodate Church Street’s students came back well beyond projections.
The school district had prepared to spend between $850,000 and $900,000 on portable classrooms and necessary site work to move Church Street’s 255 students to Carver. Tupelo’s School Board voted in March to consolidate the two K-2 schools because they were the two smallest in the district. Combining the two schools, the district said, would result in better services for students.
However, the district learned Thursday that the lowest bid for the site work on Carver’s campus was more than $1.2 million. It would then cost an additional $166,000 to buy and transport 14 portable classrooms being sold by the Pass Christian School District or $515,000 to lease the portable classrooms for three years. That’s a total cost of at least $1.4 million, or more than $528,000 over budget.
The school board had planned to vote Thursday on whether to buy the classrooms from Pass Christian or lease them. Instead, it tabled the issue to give it more time to determine how to handle the cost overrun. It likely will hold another specially-called meeting next week.
The board has several options, interim superintendent David Meadows said. For one, the district has enough money in its construction budget to pay for the higher-than-expected cost.
Meadows said that the cost of the site work may have been increased by the pressure to have the classrooms ready for the first day of school Aug. 4. The district could give contractors until December to get that work done and to see if that would decrease the cost, Meadows said.
If that happened, both Carver and Church Street would be used in the interim, with two grade levels at one facility and one grade at the other.
Meadows said that the district will also research the cost and time frame for building a permanent facility at either Carver or Church Street that would accommodate the expected total of 440 students from both schools.
Under that option, students would also be spread between Carver and Church Street – with one grade on one campus and two grades on the other – until the permanent facility was completed.
Meadows said he will not recommend that the district return to this previous year’s model of using both Carver and Church Street as separate K-2 schools.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal