During a virtual meeting on Dec. 17, the McDuffie County Board of Education unanimously approved placing a referendum for ESPLOST VII on the ballot in the March 16, 2021 election.

The proposed one cent sales tax targeted specifically for education would fund the construction of a new elementary school should county voters approve the referendum. School administrators maintain that the aging Thomson Elementary School building that opened in the early 1950s must soon be replaced. ESPLOST VII would begin on Jan. 1, 2023.

The referendum would also call for the issuance of bonds for school system capital outlay projects. Revenue from the one cent sales tax may not exceed $22 million and must be used to pay for the principal and interest payments on the bonds and other capital projects.

Administrative Services Director Dr. Neal Tam presented school board members bids submitted by six construction companies competing for a contract to build the district’s new elementary school. Tam recommended the school system contract Parrish Construction Group based in Atlanta and Perry, Ga. Tam, along with comptroller Charisa Carter, accountant Judy Bullard and quality assurance manager Leslie Timmerman, evaluated the bids. Proposals were also submitted by MEJA Construction, Spratlin and Son Construction, JCI/Duckworth Construction, RW Allen Construction and McKnight Construction. The board approved Tam’s recommendation for Parrish Construction to build the new elementary school.

During an online planning session held immediately before the virtual regular meeting, Tam spoke about three vendors that submitted bids to provide the system equipment for a propane fueling station and the gas for propane buses at the district’s transportation shop. The board approved Tam’s recommendation to contract with Ferrell Gas.

“Ferrell Gas has the best mark up rate,” he said. Ferrell’s cost for propane was 52 cents a gallon, as compared to the other vendors’ estimated costs of 58 and 62 cents a gallon, according to Tam. AmeriGas and Palmetto Propane also submitted bids on Dec. 2, according to the board agenda.

Tam explained the district’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by installing bipolar ionization (BPI) units in school HVAC units. BPI units “inactivate pathogens to reduce the infectivity of the virus,” according to the meeting agenda. Tam said these units significantly help reduce the spread of MRSA and staphylococcus, along with the coronavirus.

In other school board business, the board approved the allocation of funds from a grant and an additional grant allocation awarded to the system.

The school district was awarded a fiscal year 2021 Title IV-A stART grant of $10,000 for a fine arts program at J.A. Maxwell Elementary School. Monies will pay for music kits, narrative texts and instruments for MES’s Music on the Move at the Mighty Max Project.

The school system’s CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) program received additional allocations of $502 and $213.

Board members approved a recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Mychele Rhodes to continue a longevity supplement. The supplement recognizes employees’ “commitment and tenure,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes informed the board that four personnel requests for resignations/retirement/terminations were submitted as were two employee requests for transfers. The board approved the requests to district human resources.

School Board Chairman Andy Knox ended the meeting by thanking Bobby Anthony and Darrell Wells for their dedicated service to the Board of Education. Anthony and Wells’s terms end on Dec. 31.

“We wish you both the very best,” Rhodes said.

Incoming board members Pam Strouble and Brian Jernigan will be sworn in this coming January.