BOE Building Costs Examined

At Thursday's board of education meeting, the board passed a building program that would build two new schools and add additions and renovations to two others in phase one. Phase two of the plan would construct another new school within the next two years. The new buildings and additions are desperately needed to improve education in Loudon County. That said, a building plan must also fit within the financial capacities of Loudon County residents. The adopted plan fits the bill on both accounts.

For weeks as the board has been discussing a building program, a number of architects and engineer firms have been graciously sending us information on school building projects they have recently completed. These documents give us at least some ball park figure of what our building program could cost.

Below, for those of you who are really interested in the building program, are some cost estimates based on the information we have received. Let me make it clear, these are simply estimates presumed based on our needed space multiplied by what seems to be the average cost for building educational facilities. This is probably as close as we can get till we actually hire an architect.

Click here for Community Tectonics recent projects.
Click here for COPE Associates recent projects.

Hard Numbers and Estimates Pertaining to the Building Program

At Greenback new Pre K-12.

Currently there are 671 students (ADM 11/10/08). The existing building has 78,440 sq. ft. not including portables.

New building plan calls for the new school to be 100,000  sq. ft. to serve 1000 students.

Operating costs should go down dramatically  in a new more energy efficient building and the elimination of the five portables which would be sold.

New Middle School at Loudon.

Currently there are 394 students (ADM 11/10/08). The existing building has 40,900 sq. ft. not including portable.

New building plan calls for the new school to be 70,000-80,000 sq. ft. to serve 700-800 students.

If the board has no intention to ever combine Philadelphia Middle, 188 students (ADM 11/10/08), with the new Loudon Middle School, the sq. ft. for the new middle school can be greatly reduced.

Operating cost would be increased by utilities for new building. However these increases would be more than off set by the operating cost reductions achieved by the combination Loudon Elementary and the old Fort Loudon Middle

Combining Loudon Elementary and Fort Loudon Middle Pre K -5

Currently the two schools combined have 860 students (ADM 11/10/08). Loudon Elementary 466 students (ADM 11/10/08), Fort Loudon Middle 394 (ADM 11/10/08). Combined sq. ft. 76,274  not including portables.

The relocation of the middle school students to the new middle school would leave the elementary school with more than double the sq. ft. currently available in the elementary school. 

The plan calls for a new central cafeteria/office that would be built between and attached to the existing buildings. Previous estimates were for approximately 7,000 sq. ft. of new construction.

At this time there are no plans to make any class room alterations or renovations but to wait and let the elementary school to expand into the entire facility and allow them time to better evaluate their needs. Alterations to the existing facilities, if needed, could be undertaken in phase two.

Operating costs would be greatly decreased by the elimination of duplicated services and the elimination of the five portables which would be sold.

Expand/Renovate or Replace Cafeteria at Philadelphia.

There are no estimates of the needs at Philadelphia on the cafeteria but the cost should be very low with renovation costs in the $75 per. Sq. Ft. Range.

At this time there are no plans for any classroom additions to Philadelphia but to wait to see what effect the new middle school in Loudon has on the middle school population in Philadelphia. It is expected that there will be some migration of middle school students from Philadelphia to the new Loudon Middle school which could reduce the overall population at Philadelphia.

Renovations or additions of class rooms at Philadelphia if needed could be addressed in phase two.

Phase Two

Included in the approved building plan is phase two. Phase two of the plan which will commence on completion of phase one will include a new middle school in the north end of the county. The new north end middle school should mirror in cost and size the new middle school in Loudon.

Highland Park (Pre K- 4) currently has 394 students (ADM 11/10/08) with 46,170 sq. ft.  not including portables.
Eaton Elementary (Pre K- 4) currently has 696 students (ADM 11/10/08) with 81,246 sq. ft.  not including portables.
North Middle School (5-8) currently has 872 students (ADM 11/10/08) with 89,076 sq. ft.  not including portables.

A new north end middle would relieve over crowding at all three north end schools. Potentially the board could sell or more desirably trade the 80 acres of property on Hwy. 321 for a more desirable location 

Cost Estimates

Cost estimates are based on information provided to the board by Community Tectonics Architects, Architects Weeks Ambrose McDonald Inc., Johnson Architecture and COPE Associates Inc. Architecture.

Based of information we have received from the various architects and engineers the going rate for new construction is in the $100-$125 per sq. ft. range for total building and site preparation. Under that assumption rough estimate costs could be in the 21 -25 mil. range. Of course this could change up or down depending on what the architect/engineers tell us. This plan should also reduce operating cost across the board. The plan will also take care of student growth in the county for many, many years.

New Pre K-12 School at Greenback for 1000 students/100,000 sq. ft.
100,000 sq. ft. @ $125.00 per sq. ft.= $12,500,000.

New middle school at Loudon, large plan, for 700-800 students/70,000-80,000 sq. ft.on the property beside LHS.
80,000 sq. ft. @ $125.00 per sq. ft. = $10,000,000.00.


New middle school at Loudon, reduced plan, for 500-600 students/50,000-60,000 sq. ft. on the property beside LHS. 
60,000 sq. ft. @ $125.00 per sq. ft. = $7,500,000.00.

New central cafeteria/office for Loudon Elementary.
7,000 sq. ft. @ $125.00 per sq. ft. =  $875,000.00.

Expand/Renovate or Replace Cafeteria at Philadelphia.

These cost are hard to estimate until surveying work is done. However, renovation costs are around $75 per sq. ft. which would put the cost of a 2,000 sq. ft. addition/renovation at around $150,000.00.

Total estimated costs of phase one plus/minus, $21,025,000.00 - $23,525,000.00 depending on the size of the new middle school in Loudon.

Of course all estimates above could change up or down depending on many factors. These are only close estimates based on available information at this time.

Financing the plan.

The great aspects of the adopted plan is that no property tax increase should be necessary to finance the debt service on the building plan.  

It is not the place of the BOE to determine the financing for the plan. However we can make some suggestions.

When a final dollar amount that is needed for the building program is determined, the commission and the BOE should have cash in reserves that could be used to off set the total amount the county would need to borrow.

A small addition of current tax pennies to the Rural Debt Fund 156 would more than cover the debt service on the needed loan.

Hopefully, as we all continue to explore and learn more about the possibilities of the new building plan, we can all support the plan for the benefit of the entire county.