RUSSELLVILLE — Franklin County Superintendent of Education Greg Hamilton got a Christmas gift that he had been waiting on for months.
“We have been given notification that construction on a new cafeteria and classrooms at Tharptown High School will begin within the next 2 to 3 weeks,” Hamilton said Wednesday.
Hamilton said a new company, First team Construction Co., Inc. of Auburn, has been awarded the contract.
School board Chairman Mike Shewbart said the project is needed to ease the overcrowding at Tharptown, which is located just east of Russellville.
“We’ve got students on top of students. We’ve run out of room and are having to hold classes in portable buildings,” Shewbart said. “This addition will not get them all out of the portables, but it will help a lot.”
The $2,495,425 project was moving forward until April, but it was halted when the building commission determined that a safe room had been included in the design.
Hamilton said school system officials were able to work that into the plans and get the project going once again. He said the safe room will be in a “second phase” of the overall construction project.
Shewbart said the project is being financed through capital outlay money.
“We have pledged all our capital outlay money ($175,000) that we get each year (from the state school board) to pay it off,” Shewbart said.
According to Hamilton, the plans are to turn the old cafeteria into four classrooms and build a new cafeteria.
School officials the plans have been approved, and the project is ready to proceed.
“We need rooms; we’re busting at the seams,” Shewbart said.
School officials said there are about 830 students in grades K-12 at Tharptown, 546 of them in the elementary school where the additions were planned.
“During the last two years, the attendance at Tharptown has really grown. There’s 200 more students there this year than last year,” Shewbart said. “We’re trying to take care of students with no room to do it.”
Hamilton said this is just one phase of the overall renovations and construction needed at Tharptown.
He said that area of the county is growing, and so is the student population at the school.
“We have to expand to meet the demands and be able to provide for the students,” Hamilton said.
He said the “next phase” is to build another addition with six more classrooms and a safe room.
“That would completely get the students out of the portables, and give us the space we so desperately need there,” Hamilton said.
He expects the school board to discuss the next phase of the project early next year.