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McClure Health Science High School will open for students in August.

The average age of Gwinnett County Public Schools facilities is approximately 20 years old, Chief Operations Officer of Facilities Walt Martin said during a Board of Education work session Thursday.

As the cost of materials and labor required for routine maintenance and repairs is steadily increasing, Martin reassured board members that the school system’s relationship with its contractors helps combat the ascent.

Martin disputed the idea that costs increase by 10% annually, but GCPS is not immune to rising construction costs.

“It is inching up,” Martin said. “In today’s world, we’re not in bad shape.”

Some buildings cost more to maintain than others, like the more than 80-year-old Bethesda Elementary School. Some parts of the Lawrenceville school are more than 100 years old.

{p dir=”ltr”}“If we can redo what I call the guts (including HVAC and electrical hardware), the building will last,” Martin said. “What we don’t want to do is get behind the eight ball.”

{p dir=”ltr”}Buford City Schools has seen a roughly 10% increase in its fiscal year budget. While additional school resource officers and staffing play into that increase, Buford’s maintenance cost for schools can also be significant.

{p dir=”ltr”}At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the Buford City Board of Education approved a pay request of $755,296 for much-needed repairs to the roof of Buford Middle School. After the meeting, Chairman Phillip Beard suspected it was the first major overall of the roof since the school was built in 1991.

Meanwhile, GCPS’s enrollment is burgeoning. It has a projected enrollment of more than 180,000 students for this school year.

The school system is in the midst of several projects that will increase school capacities, alleviate the flow of car rider traffic or the addition of completely new schools.

The school system plans to open three new high schools in five years. GCPS is two-thirds complete with that plan after the construction of the roughly $39 million McClure High School completed this summer. In a presentation to the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday, Martin said Seckinger High School is projected to open in August 2022 in the Mill Creek Cluster.

Just this year, systemwide facility improvements are expected to cost GCPS roughly $83.5 million. The overwhelming majority of the overhead costs come from a projected $40 million spent on HVAC replacements and $30 million. There’s a projected $13.5 million combined cost for painting, carpeting and academies projects at several high schools.

Three major renovations are complete or scheduled to be completed by August. Early this year, construction crews put the finishing touches on a three-story addition to Lilburn Middle School and construction of additional parking and a parent drop-off lane is still underway. The new lot will provide additional parking and improve traffic conditions at the beginning and end of the school day when parents drop off and pick up their students.

Discovery High School underwent an interior build-out and renovation project that added a new health science academy and 27 new classrooms, projected to be completed this fall.

A 65,670-square-foot three-story building at Richards Middle School is projected to be done in August. It provides 33 new classrooms at the middle school, which will turn 32 years old Aug. 24.

Grayson Tech on the Grayson High School campus is undergoing renovations. An existing room used by the Grayson Technical Education Program will be converted into a functioning veterinary operating suite and host Gwinnett Technical College students during the fall semester.

The presentation also detailed athletics facility projects funded by the 2019 G.O. Bond Program. Duluth and South Gwinnett high schools are the first two fields slated to be fit with athletic turf and new track surfaces. These projects also included storm drainage improvements at both schools. Martin also briefly outlined a multi-year athletics facility renovation project that will include improvements at concession stands, dugouts, field houses and press boxes at GCPS high schools.

The bond program is also funding the ongoing fine arts conservatory project at Central Gwinnett High school.

Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories about the county in which he grew up.