Schools in Richmond County, Ga., Turn Attention to Tech Upgrades

A number of regional opportunities are pushing the Richmond County School System to upgrade its science and technology programs.

by Amanda King, The Augusta Chronicle / September 27, 2018

(TNS) — With growth in student numbers and ever-changing technology, the Richmond County School System is working toward upgrading its buildings and bringing students a state-of-the-art education experience.

Student enrollment grew by approximately 1,100 students from 2017 to 2018 and some schools are expected to see continued increases with the growth at Fort Gordon and new cyber opportunities. Not only are additional classes needed but the format of classrooms and other learning environments are in need of upgrades.

Maker spaces will allow students the flexibility to move around and work in groups, said Benton Starks, Senior Director of Facilities Services with the school system. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math labs give students hands on experiences to learn.

Specialty theaters will allow for more intimate productions and give classes the opportunity to present in the theater as needed. High schools are moving toward having two spaces for physical education and athletics – a performance gym for sporting events and large multipurpose area for physical education and assemblies. Having separate spaces will limit wear and tear in the performance area and relieve scheduling conflicts for athletics.

"A lot of schools have multiple programs going on," Starks said. "You have wrestling going on at the same time as basketball and they are competing for that space."

As the school system works toward utilizing modern technology in classrooms, many buildings are in need of updates. Starks said buildings now require more wiring and fiber optics to keep up with the need for Wi-Fi usage as students use tablets, phones and laptops to complete school work.

Upgrades in technology also allow for savings in other areas, according to school officials. The new Belair K-8 School will be the first to have solar panels to save on energy costs. The solar panel installation is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2019. As buildings are being renovated, the school system is also installing LED lighting.

"All of that lets us use dollars for other programs," Director of Communications Kaden Jacobs said.

Totaling $111.5 million in budgeted construction, the current and future projects are paid for through special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) and state capital funding. State funding is based on the age of the structure, making it possible to not need local general funds. All projects to date have been delivered at or under budget, according to Starks.

"When we tell the community we're going to do XYZ, we do it but XYZ looks even better than you thought it was going to look," he said.

©2018 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.