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School board declares state of emergency

The sign outside Knox Elementary reads, “Where Hope Begins and Dreams Come True.” After battling a deteriorating roof conditions for some time, the dream of a new roof might just become a reality.

Concerns for the safety of students has lead to a declaration by the Selma City School Board of a state of emergency to provide a stable roof for Knox Elementary.

“It will be a problem if we don’t hurry up and fix that school,” board member Dr. Udo Ufomandu said. “What if Montgomery comes around and sees our kids in that environment?”

Thursday’s meeting came one after the State Board of Education voted unanimously to take over the Selma City School System beginning nearly immediately.

The discussion began during the local board’s last meeting when Ufomandu explained to his fellow board members the “horrible” conditions he and Selma Superintendent of Education Gerald Shirley witnessed during a visit to Knox Elementary. Ufomandu said the roof was leaking rainwater, forcing students to sit around dripping water.

Selma City School purchasing agent Ray Mathiews presented some options for new roofs including a Thermoplastic Polyolefin membrane, Modified Bitumen and a metal roof.

Mathiews said the TPO membrane roof is a rubber-type membrane with tapered insulation and would come with a 20-year no-dollar limited warrant.

He said the TPO would cost about $233,415 to cover the Knox Elementary School building, which he said is about 33,500 feet.

The second option he mentioned was a MB Membrane, which is an asphalt-based roof. He said it’s estimated to cost $316,000 with the same warranty.

Lastly, Mathiews mentioned getting a metal roof, which he said is estimated to cost $366,000 along with an additional $35,000 to take equipment from the roof, put back on the ground and put fences around each unit.

Before the vote, board member Frank Chestnut, Jr. addressed some concerns he had about investing in roof repairs.

He said the Alabama State Board of Education made a recommendation in the past that some schools within the Selma City School System should be closed, and the state board could force them to close Knox Elementary School during their intervention.

“Could it be that we go ahead and invest in this school, and instead of looking at things from the standpoint of which schools that they want to close?” Chestnut said.  “They may want to close [Knox]. Then we just put $250,000 into a roof.”

The board moved to invite bids from architects, willing to work on Knox’s roofing project.