MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Chad Anderson, the new executive director of operations for Montgomery Public Schools, said the system will still need “a lot of help” even after it receives its full insurance reimbursement for the fire that severely damaged Booker T. Washington Magnet High School last month. According to Anderson, insurance adjusters said the system would receive $7 million for the building itself.
However, that $7 million would be contingent upon the system expanding the building to 40,000 square feet and giving it an ISO 4 rating. The BTW property that was damaged was bout 37,000 square feet and had a lower ISO 2 rating. Anderson said if MPS does not make these changes, it will only receive $4.8 million for a new building.
The rest of the insurance funding is designated for specific parts of the recovery process. Anderson said $1.5 million was allotted for contents, which includes items purchases for the school with system funds.
“If you took the building and put it upside down and shook it, anything that falls out would be contents,” Anderson said.
Anderson said items purchased by teachers will not be included in the contents funding. The money will go toward items like desks, chairs and supplies purchased by MPS.
Another $700,000 will go toward architects and engineers who will work on planning and creating any renovations or rebuilding.
$700,000 will go toward EDP, which Anderson said is anything in the building that works with “the network”, so technology items like phones and tablets. Another $483,000 was made available for extra expenses. Anderson said about $300,000 of extra expenses funding went to preparing the Hayneville Road Elementary School campus to house the BTW students and staff after the fire. He said more of that money will likely go to the campus as more needs arise. Whatever is left will be used to create the system’s Child Nutrition Program office, which was located in the basement of BTW.
Although the campus had only been without students for about two months, Anderson said a lot of work had to be done to get it ready. However, he said the support from the community make the process “a quick turnaround.”
“You’ve got several organizations that are directly involved with BTW,” Anderson said. “The one in particular is the FAME organization. They support their program there tremendously. They were out their collecting donations and volunteering. On top of that, the City came in toward the end of the week and helped with some painting issues, trash, water samples and making sure everything was ready for the kids.”
Anderson said between community volunteers, free services provided by the city and a donation of $25,000 from the county, MPS was able to prepare the campus in just a few days.
While portions of the funding, like the money needed to prepare the new campus, was given to MPS early, Anderson said the insurance funding will be given through reimbursement. Once the system receives inventory reports from teachers, Anderson said he will submit the information and the system should receive a portion of the funding in advance to begin purchasing some of the items they lost. However, with the items lost in the fire, the amount given to the system will be based on the current value of the items. The system anticipates many items will have depreciated in value, depending on how old they were.
Even once all of the insurance money comes in, the total will be about $10.4 million. Anderson said, rebuilding BTW could cost more than $40 million. To put it in perspective, he said it cost about $50 million to build Carver High School and about $40 million to build Park Crossing High School. Even though BTW will be smaller, the facilities it will need make it just as costly.
“If we build a new school, it will be smaller but it won’t be any less expensive, likely,” Tom Salter, MPS’ senior communication officer said. “They’ll have to have a little small theater, a performing arts center, music rooms and dance areas and all that. That’s more than just linoleum.”
Anderson said he asked BTW teachers to have their inventory lists to him by the end of the week. He said he anticipates funds to be released to the system after the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1. He also said as the system moves forward with the process, he expects system leaders to be aggressive about seeking outside funding.
“We need some help from somewhere, someplace other than what we’re having at this point,” Anderson said. “I know the folks in finance are working hard to try to cut our cost and be as financially responsible as we can be. It takes a lot to run a big system like this and make sure it runs well for the kids.”