Three schools to receive HVAC improvements in Murray County

File/Daily Citizen-News

Leslie Bowen, a second-grade teacher, walks students around Eton Elementary School in September 2019. The school will receive significant heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements as part of a project approved Monday by the Murray County Board of Education.

CHATSWORTH — Three Murray County Schools elementary schools will receive much-needed heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements after the Murray County Board of Education approved 7-0 spending $1.829 million on the project during Monday's meeting.

While Chatsworth Elementary School and Coker Elementary School will benefit significantly from the upgrades, Eton Elementary School "needs this really, really bad," said Chris Crow, Murray County Schools' maintenance supervisor. Eton Elementary School "had almost no outside air, but we have addressed that completely."

While $1.829 million "is a pretty high quote," Waters Mechanical Inc., which is based in Glennville and was the low bidder of three, "did Gladden Middle School, and I wouldn't shy away from them," Crow said.

The project will begin this summer, and "Eton will take the majority of the summer, I'd assume," while the other two schools "can be done piecemeal here and there."

"It's a huge scope of work," he said. "This is going to be a whopper of a project."

The school board members also approved 7-0 a contract with CSI Controls for $907,607 for controls at Bagley Middle School, North Murray High School and Woodlawn Elementary School.

This will bring the entire school system, with the exception of Murray County High School and the early learning center, onto the same control system, which is on one server, Crow said.

"It's a really, really, really neat system."

"It does a lot of things other than turn temperatures up or down" in buildings, he said. It's "unbelievable what these things can do when it comes to energy management."

The school system received $13 million from the federal American Rescue Plan of 2021, and it's using those funds to pay for both of these projects, said Superintendent Steve Loughridge.

"This helps us dramatically because a lot of this work would have come up sooner or later with capital outlay, but now we can use capital outlay funds for other things."

The school system has spent its $1.6 million from the initial federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act — mostly on Chromebooks — and some of the $6 million it received from the second CARES Act is "still being used at school levels," according to Finance Director Kathy Smith. She's also allotted school-level funds from the American Rescue Plan for the next two years, and unlike with CARES Acts money, funds from the American Rescue Plan can be used on facility improvements.


Murray County Schools recently secured an $800,000 SUCCESS Grant from the Georgia Department of Education, and the school system's grant proposal received the highest "score" of any proposal, said Loughridge. "It was us by a wide margin," and that "needed some recognition."

A team led by Barbie Kendrick, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, wrote the grant in a matter of days, and "we applied for things to support what we already have in place," she said. That includes co-teaching consultants, particularly important for Special Education students, consultants for corrective programs and consultants to teach teachers new and innovative instructional methods.

While Coker Elementary School, Eton Elementary School and Pleasant Valley High School will be the focus, teachers and administrators from other schools will be welcome at trainings and professional development whenever practicable, Kendrick said.

"We'll maximize (this money) as much as we can."

Murray County Schools also received a $91,000 agriculture equipment grant for handling cattle, including any tools for herding, penning up, weighing and other tasks, said Danny Dunn, the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education director for Murray County Schools. These items can be utilized by "any student in the county for any livestock project."

He's planning which equipment to buy and likely will finalize that list early in 2022, he said.

"We want to buy the best" for students, and "when we figure out what we want, we'll see how much we can get."

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