Council, school board tour schools that need most improvements

Published 9:07 am Monday, September 28, 2015

Star Photo/Rebekah Price City Councilmen and Elizabethton Board of Education members ventured from school to school observing ongoing projects and tentative improvements outlined in the Five Year Capital Expenditure plan.

Star Photo/Rebekah Price City Councilmen and Elizabethton Board of Education members ventured from school to school observing ongoing projects and tentative improvements outlined in the Five Year Capital Expenditure plan.

Members of the City Council and the Elizabethton Board of Education boarded a bus Friday morning to visit three of the city schools that have been identified in the Five Year Capital Expenditures plan to have the most need for structural improvements to visit projects that are already in motion and to see the sites for upcoming additions and repairs. Expenditures from 2016-2020 are estimated to cost $8,550,500.
“It’s time for us to show the great things that are happening within the school system,” said Director of Schools Dr. Corey Gardenhour. “We’re elated that council and board are working together to achieve great things in the city, and it’s good for them to be informed since they’re our funding board.”
After reviewing the project plans, council and board members toured Elizabethton High School, T.A. Dugger Junior High and Harold McCormick Elementary.
At Elizabethton High School, Principal David Wright and Assistant Director of Schools Richard VanHuss described progress with construction of the new band and music room and the addition of four classrooms within the old music room.
The new band room is scheduled to be finished by the end of February or early March and is progressing as planned and has at times even been ahead of schedule.
According to Gardenhour, the new band room provides almost double the space for the 150-member band, including color guard, and music groups and should provide them with a much more comfortable learning environment.
The office in the old band room will be demolished, allowing space for four new classrooms within the old band room.
Wright said constuction has not been very destracting and that weather has been very favorable for construction. Almost all the block is laid, and the plan is to have the roof on the building before colder months.
The stage in the current music room will have a ramp added to make access easier for storage of instruments and uniforms as well as to make it handicap accessible for potential use as a classroom in the future.
At T.A. Dugger, 2016-2017 plans include an eight-classroom addition behind the school in the space where a portable classroom currently sits. It will be a two-story addition of approximately 7,000 square feet on each floor including the renovation of two restrooms. This will connect the auditorium side of the building with the science wing on the other side and will make both handicap accessible.
Currently, 325 students attend classes daily in the three science classes upstairs, which have no handicap access.
“If a student breaks a leg or becomes injured and cannot climb the stairs, we have to change their entire schedule to accomodate,” said Principal Randy Little.
The additions will make it possible for the school to teach more than 100 more students, but an increase in students will mean the cafeteria must be expanded. To accomplish this, the music room will have to be moved upstairs, and the current wall that divides it from the cafeteria will have to be demolished.
Another major tentative improvement to T.A. Dugger in 2016-2017 will be the demolition of the existing home grand stands and the 2017-2018 renovation of existing visitor grand stands to accomodate all visitors with approximately 2,000 at the stadium.
Little showed off the new curtains that include the school’s emblem which have recently been added to the auditorium. He said that it is a premier venue in the community, and everyone was pleased with the improved appearance.
Plans at Harold McCormick focus on energy efficiency by include installing new lighting and dropping ceilings which will allow space for updated electric work. Principal Eric Wampler showed where some ceilings have already been dropped without penetrating the asbestos.
When the schools were built, the ceilings were coated with material containing asbestos, a fibrous, naturally occuring mineral which helps with insulation and sound-proofing. Unfortunately, doing construction with asbestos presents a toxicity issue in the air. Therefore, no construction can take place while the school year is in progress, and any additions, like lowered ceilings to reduce the amount of space to heat and cool, will likely have to take place in teh summer months, unless they can be done without affecting the asbestos surfaces. This means lighting cannot be upgraded until new lower ceilings are installed, which is possible in some pllaces and has already begun, but is impossible in others.
The 2015-2016 plans at Harold McCormick include installing new lighting and drop ceilings in hallways.
Another issue presented with the asbestos is that with improving technology and the presence of computers and other devices in all classrooms creates the need for updated electrical wiring. Much of the wiring is typically run through the ceiling, so again, the drop ceilings must be installed before this can take blace, but it is scheduled for the 2017-2018 school year.
Principal Eric Wampler said that to improve security they also plan to install more cameras and an electronic entry system instead of the current traditional key system.
Another tentative improvement for Harold McCormick is 2019-2020 replacement of windows, which Wampler said will be very important in improving energy efficiency, especially in large rooms like the cafeteria.
Some projects are planned to take place at all schools over the five year period including replacing of climate control systems and HVAC units/heat exchangers and computer replacement.
Additionally, three 66-passenger buses are tentatively scheduled to be purchased in the school years of 2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2019-2020.
“We have the right people in place to do what we need to do,” said Gardenhour. “That’s the power of our school system.”

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