Coppinville Junior High

The Enterprise Board of Education discussed about the potential future for the old Coppinville Junior High building.

At the Nov. 29 Enterprise City Schools Board of Education work session, the board discussed possible options for future use of the old Coppinville Junior High School building.

Coppinville Junior High School – which was once the all-black Coppinsville High School in Enterprise during segregation – currently houses the ECS alternative school, plus an adult daycare and the Enterprise Boys and Girls Club. A number of groups also use Coppinville’s historic gym.

ECS Superintendent Dr. Zel Thomas brought forth five options that the school board could take but made it clear that other options could be discussed, as well.

Option one is the complete demolition of the buildings and landscape on the property, which has an estimated cost of $540,045. Option two would see the demolition of all but “building A,” which is the administration building and is the newest part of the school. This option would also include the upgrade of electrical and HVAC. It has an estimated cost of $1,336,365.

Option three would see the entire structure be demolished except for the gym and the construction of a new building sized for curriculum. The estimated cost for option three is $2,133,510. Option four is a complete restoration of the historic school with a new single ply roof, the replacement of existing windows, a new HVAC system and electrical upgrades at an estimated cost of $5,193,640. Option five is to donate the old school to the city.

ECS Maintenance Supervisor Matt Routley explained the number of issues old Coppinville is faced with, which includes roofing issues, an outdated HVAC system, an outdated electrical system, windows that need to be replaced and potential lead paint and asbestos issues. According to Routley, the current estimated cost of maintenance on the facilities is $50,000 per year and ECS CFO Pam Christian said the cost of utilities is around $73,000 per year. The school system brings in around $60,000 per year annually in money from leasing out portions of the building.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road,” Routley said. “We are going to have to sink some money into it or figure out what we want to do with the facilities there.”

Board President Rodrick Caldwell emphasized the historic and sentimental nature of the building.

“There is sentimental value that has to be weighed in this decision,” Caldwell said. “That is a huge part of it. The sentimental value of the building.”

Thomas said that Coppinville’s history in the community is not lost on him and he agrees that it should be taken into consideration but can’t outweigh the school’s duty to use funds responsibly.

“I know it has sentimental value to a large part of the community but at the same time it isn’t prudent for us to spend that much money on the facility that we have such limited use for with our students,” he said. “So few of our students utilize it. We can’t spend that money for a facility that we just can’t maximize the use of.

“I know it means a lot to a good portion of the population and has that sentimental value and I respect that, but we have to be good stewards of the funds and the resources that we are charged with maintaining.”

The board discussed the possibility of donating it to the city, especially for use of the gym that is still in good shape, as the city is already expanding its recreation facilities. Board member Dr. Joan Newman asked if there would be a potential for exchanging the property for property the school might be looking to use in the future.

“Could we swap this for a future asset we may need,” Newman wondered. “Before we hand it off is it worth a negotiation with someone because we are growing and we will need a new school in the future.

“Is there somewhere we could say ‘We’ll give you this for that?’ It is an asset and if the city is interested it could enhance some of their programs that are being offered.”

While no decision was made and Thomas emphasized that is not a decision that needed to be made immediately, board members said they would like to reach out to the city, local churches and the Coppinsville Alumni Association to gauge their thoughts on the future of the old school, as well.

The board also discussed the potential revision of Board Policy 2.5.8, which is the rule that members of the public must give 24 hours notice before a board meeting to speak at the meeting. Thomas proposed extending that time limit.

“I want to propose we change that until at least a certain number of days,” Thomas said. “My initial thought was 10 days. That gives us the opportunity to investigate and try to work out the issue at hand.

“Between 90 percent or even 99 percent of the people that want to speak haven’t talked to anyone else, they just want to go straight to (the school board).”

A number of the board members expressed concern with stretching it out 10 days.

“I don’t want there to be a hot button issue that stays a hot button issue for longer because they didn’t feel like they had the chance to speak to us,” board member Steven Duke said. “They are our shareholders and we need to be able to address their concerns.”

Thomas said he understands that concern and agrees but also wants to ensure that parents and community members are going through the proper channels before escalating to speaking to the school board.

“Often times when they even get to me they haven’t even spoken to a principal,” Thomas said. “Our board meetings aren’t intended for entertainment purposes and I think right now a lot of people think it’s entertainment that they can go up and get their three minutes.

“If you are fine with the 24 hours we can keep it at that or if you want to go to five days or three days, we can do whatever you guys feel comfortable with.”

The board didn’t make a decision on the policy.

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