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JMS renovation project delayed

Jemison Middle School sat empty this school year—and will until education officials can afford a multi-million dollar renovation.

Jemison Middle School will likely continue to occupy Jemison Intermediate School for at least one more school year.

The intermediate school was built last year to ease crowding by giving Jemison four schools.

Shortly thereafter, education officials decided the transition would include moving the middle school to the intermediate school, located adjacent to Jemison Elementary, so that renovations could be completed at the old middle school building, which is adjacent to Jemison High School.

But the high cost of the renovations coupled with evaporating state education funding has put the project on hold, at least until the Alabama Legislature passes a budget.

“None of us like the building sitting empty like that, but right now we’re just having to wait,” Chilton County Superintendent of Education Dave Hayden said.

No timeline has been decided on beyond waiting to see what action is taken by the Legislature.

Before students could move back into the old building, the gymnasium—which has been declared unsafe—would have to be demolished, a new gym constructed and the entire facility renovated, Hayden said.

A two-year-old estimate on the project was $1.8 million, a number that could be higher when work actually begins.

Hayden said getting an answer about state funding would be the first step; he would then meet with the Board of Education to discuss whether the renovations would be possible.

If and when the updates were completed, a decision would have to be made about which grades would move back to the old building and which ones would remain at the intermediate. Even grades that are currently at Jemison’s high and elementary schools could be moved.

The elementary school currently houses grades kindergarten through fourth grade, the middle school houses grades 5-7 and the high school houses grades 8-12.

Jemison Middle School Principal Mark Knight said the intermediate school building meets the needs of his teachers, students and administrators.

As for the future, Knight said he plans only to be back in the new building next school year.

“We’re assuming next year will be the same,” Knight said.