By REBECCA HAZEN
After two years of delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic and rising construction costs, the Dade County Board of Education has recently approved an amended building to replace Davis Elementary’s Rock Building, which was demolished in 2020.
“Davis is important to the community. Our community is looking forward to this. The school was built by the community as a high school. They still have a big presence. They see the board doing this is as a commitment to Davis,” Charity Barton, Principal of Davis Elementary, said.
The historic rock building was eligible for capital project reimbursement money from the Department of Education.
“Had the school district made that commitment to take those funds to improve the building, then we would have been obligated to that building for a minimum of 20 years. At the time, the building was 80 years old. Financially, it didn’t make sense to put a lot of money into an 80-year-old building when we can demo it and build something brand new,” Dade County School Superintendent Josh Ingle said.
The Board of Education approved a building plan last year, but issues halted the process, including needing an environmental site assessment for a propane tank on the school’s property.
During that process, building materials and construction costs were going up. The original building that was approved by the board cost $3 million but would cost about $4.6 million now.
“We had to put the brakes on everything. We asked, ‘What can we build and still be wise stewards of the taxpayer resources,’” Ingle said.
The amended building design is smaller but will still put back the space that the school had lost with the demolition. In addition, it will keep the children safer, by having them be under one roof, instead of having to go outside on the sidewalk between two buildings.
“It will give us the space back that we need. Right now, we have no storage space. We may grow in number, as people start to come back to school as the COVID virus numbers are starting to go down. I am at capacity in my classrooms right now,” Barton said.
Barton noted that the rock building had a science lab, a space for teachers to organize and plan, and a space for the Parent Teacher Organization.
In the new building, there will be space for five additional classrooms, plus a large music room.
Barton is especially looking forward to seeing the 3D printer in its own space, in a STEM lab. She is also thankful that reading and math interventionists will have more space to work with the students.
“Everyone loves school, but they get most excited about extra activities. Davis does a good job of providing those. It will give them space in the rooms to do activities. We do all of that now, but it’s cramped,” Barton said.
According to Ingle, the next step in the process is that the architect will send the plans to the Department of Education to be approved. The State Fire Marshal will also have to make sure that everything is up to code.
“After the approvals, our architect will run up an RFP, (Request for Proposal) and then we will put it out for bid. In a perfect world, it would take 12-18 months, but with all the supply chain issues that we’re dealing with now, we will be at the mercy of contractors,” Ingle said.
An important detail to note about the new construction is that rock was saved from the demolition and will be incorporated into the new building.
“It’s sentimental to this community,” Ingle said.
Ingle also noted that the design plans allow for expansion if there is ever a need for it in the future.
“I wish this is something that could have moved a little faster, but it was out of everyone’s hands. We’re excited and the community’s excited now that we’re gaining traction and momentum. Let’s move forward,” Ingle said.