GARDENDALE, Ala. (WIAT) — Jefferson County Schools students returned to class later than usual this year due to construction as the district works toward improving facilities.
Tuesday was the first day of class for the system’s students, many of whom will attend schools still under construction. Last year, district leaders decided on a later start date for the 2019-20 school year to allow progress on some of the projects.
“It was the need to have those extended summer windows where we could do significant renovation, primarily in the middle schools,” said Craig Pouncey, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.
The construction is part of an estimated $300 million capital improvement plan leaders started working on three years ago. Pouncey said about 10,000 of the district’s 36,000 students attend class either in portable classrooms or elementary schools built prior to 1970. The goal of the plan is to improve facilities across the district.
“I know teachers are encouraged, particularly those that have been a trailer for 10 years, to actually think that it’s not long (until) I’m going to have a real classroom,” Pouncey said. “That’s really a boost for a morale, and for parents and administrators just to know that we’ve been able to work through this process and are fixing to make it a reality for them.”
The plan includes the construction of six new schools and renovations at seven others, with two projects still in the preliminary phase. Some projects are close to completion, others will wrap up next year. As construction continues during the school year, some schools are making adjustments to their bus routes and car lanes.
“And it’s going to change throughout the year as we go into the second little phase of a particular area project,” deputy superintendent of operations Neal Underwood said. “Then we’ll change where we enter in from with our buses. We may change where we enter in or exit with our cars. So our goal is to make sure our parents are certainly aware of all those changes.”
Next school year also will start later as construction projects continue.