By Floyd Ingram
HOULKA – Trustees have begun work on rebuilding the Houlka Attendance Center that was destroyed by fire last week, and the clock is ticking.
Chickasaw County School trustees have been told by their insurance company they have two years, from the Wednesday, July 30 date of the fire that burned their school, to build a new facility.
“That’s not a lot of time if you want to start taking bids next spring for the summer construction season,” said Chickasaw County School Board Attorney Jimmy Hood. “You need to get with an architect and start thinking about a design. The old building is gone, and we need to look at getting it replaced.”
Trustee Kenneth Linton, a retired contractor, said architects tend to specialize in a particular type of work, and he urged the board to find one with a history of designing schools.
The district has been told by their insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual, to expect “replacement of the content and a facility similar to what was lost.” The Houlka Attendance Center was roughly 14,000 square feet and included classrooms and an auditorium.
Hood said he heard adjusters say the district would get roughly $120 per square foot, but the board generally agreed it would probably cost $200 per square foot to replace the building.
Superintendent Dr. Betsy Collums said she would get the insurance company to nail down a cost-per-square-foot estimate and prepare a list of architects for the next board meeting Aug. 12.
Hood said the walls of the burned-out building are a safety issue and they need to come down. Trustees said they would contact the county about the possibility of razing the site.
Trustees discussed the size of the new auditorium and the possibility of rebuilding on a concrete slab.
The board also voted to establish a special New Building Fund for the district.
“We have had a lot of people come to us and want to donate money for the school,” said Collums. “Each donor will get a receipt, the funds will be deposited in a special account, and each donation must be spread across the minutes with the donor’s name and amount.”
Collums said the district is ready for the start of school of Wednesday and has prepared for 500 students. She said approximately 120 junior high students will be directly affected by the fire.
Collums urged parents to be patient, and she felt students would adjust to the changes quickly.