Bartlett Weighs $60M Plan to Reconfigure, Expand Bartlett High

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Daily News (March, 31, 2017)

Bill Dries

The Bartlett City Schools board is considering a $60 million plan to upgrade and expand the Bartlett High School campus over three to four years. The project would be partially financed with a 14-cent hike in Bartlett’s property tax rate.

The high school master plan was presented to the board Thursday, March 30, by Fleming Architects at a work session.

The board is planning a town hall meeting on the proposal sometime in April. The presentation made by Fleming can be found at www.builtforbartlett.com.

Bartlett City Schools superintendent David Stephens told the board and a group of 500 people in the Bartlett High auditorium Thursday evening that a renovated and reconfigured high school is an integral part of making Bartlett a “full service” community.

“It would be a big, big change for the city in a positive direction,” he added as he pointed out that the auditorium where the meeting took place was built in 1917.

Parents and current and former students in the auditorium reacted the most to a part of the review where Fleming pointed out how “tight” and scattered parking is on the current campus and how difficult it can be to go from class to class in the collection of buildings on the 26-acre campus.

“This is a path that takes the school into a new generation,” Fleming added.

The presentation also included a campus map with dozens of red dots at the various entry points into buildings on the campus, which he and others said presents a campus safety issue that the proposal would eliminate with a central and identifiable access point.

The architect and design firm considered five options including building a new Bartlett High campus elsewhere and bringing the 9th Grade Academy now on another campus onto a renovated and expanded high school campus at its current location for a grades 9-12 high school for 3,000 students.

But after two years of planning, Fleming recommended keeping the high school a grades 10-12 campus with the 9th Grade Academy where it is and renovating the high school campus for up to 2,205 students. Bartlett High currently has 1,870 students in grades 10-12.

The $60 million estimated cost compares to $100 million to $120 million for the other four options considered by Fleming.

The 14-cent property tax rate hike would be part of an overall 35-cent property tax rate hike the city administration plans to seek in the new fiscal year. The rest of the tax hike would go for increases in fire and police services.

The 14 cents would generate an estimated $1.5 million of $3.5 million annually toward financing $44 million in bonds for the school construction over 20 years – the largest part of the school project financing. The remaining $2 million a year would be split evenly between city sales tax revenue and the school system’s annual contribution toward the debt.

The city administration estimates it has $52 million available to finance the overhaul of the school and would use another $8 million from school system reserves.

The proposal comes in the third school year of the Bartlett City Schools system, which is one of six suburban school systems formed in the towns and cities outside Memphis in Shelby County after a one-year merger of all public education in the county.

Fleming Architects principal Scott Fleming estimated a phased-in renovation of the campus would take three to four years starting with the design process.