New S.P. Morton Elementary School Modular A nearing completion

Published 6:10 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

The new S.P. Morton Elementary School Modular A is set for a late summer grand opening, with the installation of furniture serving as the final step in the process leading up to that event.

Dr. Carlton Carter, Franklin City Public Schools assistant superintendent of pupil personnel and operations, shared a presentation during a recent Franklin City School Board meeting stating that all classroom furniture will arrive prior to June 30.

“Installation of furniture will occur in July, and then we’ll have a grand opening in August of 2022,” he said. “So we are excited about our final move in.”

Ward 2 Board Member and Board Chair Amy L. Phillips noted that Mod A’s grand opening has been a long time in the making.

“I know there’s been hurdles and challenges with getting equipment in there, with getting the modular in place,” she said. “COVID has not been kind to this modular project. So we’re excited for that (event) and kids coming back in the fall and having these wonderful classrooms.”

In a May 24 interview, Phillips shared the background of the SPM Mod A replacement project and some of the hurdles it has faced.

She first noted that S.P. Morton Elementary was renovated back in the 1990s.

“Essentially that renovation took what was an open campus and converted it into a closed campus,” she said. “Everything that’s a hallway within S.P. Morton at the present time used to be a breezeway. So, they closed in the building, they added the gym, and they added the library.”

Unfortunately, when that renovation took place, no one actually planned for what was needed to accommodate students as far as classrooms, she stated.

“So pretty much as soon as construction ended on that renovation, they had to put modulars in,” she said. “So that was early ’90s, so the Mod A that we just replaced and the existing Mod B have been there that long. So you’re looking at over 25 years. It’s probably pushing 30.”

Phillip said Mod A was in the worst shape of the two modulars, with the school division having to remodel and fix the bathrooms in the modular several times.

“Of course, modulars are not meant to last forever,” she said, noting that water leakage and mold issues eventually arose. “And as a parent, that’s not something you want your kid to be sitting in eight hours a day.”

She emphasized that the health and safety of students is always a priority for FCPS. 

“So when we were looking at what we could do with our (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funding, our COVID funding, that became a priority of looking to replace modulars,” she said.

She confirmed that the actual project to replace Mod A began in August 2021, and the first issue the division encountered was not necessarily related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The first issue was the electrical service to the building itself,” she said. “Of course, as we all know, electrical needs change over time, and when you’re looking at a modular that was put in place in the early ’90s, we didn’t have the technology then that we do now and have the electronic need to sustain that.”

A new transformer was needed to handle the needs. They worked with the city to get that resolved.

Phillips said that then the modular was put in place, and a drainage issue was identified.

“So then that had to be addressed, because it would not be smart of us to put a new modular in and to have drainage issues and end up having a modular that started sinking,” she said.

It took a couple months to get the drainage issue addressed.

Phillips estimated it was late November-early December when the modular received its occupancy permit.

As the school division went about ordering new furniture, she noted that division officials had to take into account that the modulars did not have all of the electronics that FCPS has in its other classrooms.

“So trying to be compatible with everything else in ordering that (new furniture), like everything else, the price went up,” Phillips said. “Trying to be good stewards of our budget and stay within money allotted for that, we had to go back to the drawing board and reassess what we were ordering for that.”

With all the orders placed, the next hurdle became supply chain issues delaying shipment of the Mod A furniture and equipment.

“So we’re trying to still get all of that in, and rather than having it all come bit by bit and load it in bit by bit, we’re trying to utilize resources as best we can and have all of that arrive and be deployed into those rooms all at one time, because there’s a cost associated, of course, with that delivery and setup,” Phillips said.

Expenses related to the replacement of SPM Modular A, including the costs associated with delivery and setup of furniture, totaled $1,411,046.14.