Facilities Committee to board: ‘Jeff-Craig the top priority’

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The Facilities and Grounds committee of the Switzerland County School Board made a recommendation at Monday night’s monthly board meeting to forego a lockerroom/concession stand area near the football field and instead asked that the board focus on classrooms at Jefferson-Craig Elementary School.

The recommendation came from board members Nancy Peters and Joe Bennett, who have held two committee meeting that were open to the public looking at all facilities across the system. The board had approved last year an architectural design for the lockerroom area; but questions over the need for such a facility in comparison to other building needs.

At Monday’s meeting, the committee gave its report to the other members of the school board, and that report pointed the board in another direction.

“We talked last Tuesday night about several different things,” Joe Bennett said of last week’s committee meeting. “We felt like we needed to put a master plan together. That’s something that Mr. Jones had talked about as well. Based on the feedback and what we hear, we feel like we should move forward with classroom space at Jeff-Craig as the top priority.”

Bennett said that there are other things that the committee would like to do, which will all be part of the master plan, but after analyzing all of the buildings, it was clear that more classrooms at Jeff-Craig had to be the top priority on the list.

“We feel like classroom space at Jeff-Craig is number one,” Bennett said. “That may be a minimum of eight or a maximum of 10 rooms.”

“I think we can revisit this at our working session, where we can have the chance to talk about this,” Board President Wayne Daugherty said. “We can talk about where we think we ought to go as a board. We can get some idea on some direction.”

“When we discussed this, one of the things that we discussed is that we would like to move forward this year,” Bennett said. “The thinking is that we think the Enterprise wing of six rooms took 10-11 months to complete. Let’s start this project this year so we interrupt only one school year and be done by the fall of 2016.”

Along with the recommendation, the committee also told the board members that the building near the athletic field would be delayed.

“With that, we would side bar the concession and bathrooms for now,” Bennett said.

“I was at the meeting, and I personally felt that where he thinks that ought to go, we’re taking away some facilities that currently have a purpose,” Daugherty said of the concession building. “Not that we don’t need that.”

“But if we take those away, we’d have to replace them,” Peters said. “We can’t just take that away. We can’t just pull two of those portables out and then say ‘Get over it’.”

With more discussion on the Jeff-Craig expansion targeted for the board’s open working session (which will be scheduled prior to the board’s May meeting, but has not yet been set); Bennett asked about a timeline for getting plans started.

“With the working session, are we saying that be a public meeting?” he asked. “If so, can we make a decision that night?”

“I don’t think so,” Daugherty said.

“It’s a regular public meeting, so as long as you have a quorum, you can vote,” board attorney Matt Hocker said. “If it’s an advertised meeting. You’re calling it a working session, but it’s a public meeting.”

“Can we move forward with picking an architect?” Bennett asked. “We’ve been working with Lancer. Can we move forward with getting the design concept started?”

“I think that would be something that the board will have to make a motion on and do it,” Daugherty said. “Like Matt is saying, I think you can do that at our meeting. It’s not on the agenda for tonight. There might be some people who have something to say about that.”

“We’ve had two public meetings,” Bennett said.

“But the board hasn’t discussed it,” Daugherty said.

“But we have to discuss it in public,” Peters said.

“It will be a public meeting,” Daugherty responded.

“But this is a public meeting, too,” Peters said. “Let’s discuss it now. We don’t have to have another public meeting to discuss it.”

“The facilities committee feels pretty strongly about getting the ball rolling,” Peters continued. “So that we can get things going. The first step might be an architect. We know we want to do 8-10 rooms, so we need to have architects give us ideas on what that might look like.”

With that, Bennett moved to move forward in getting design concepts for an expansion of Jeff-Craig, with the board getting an architect involved. Peters seconded the motion.

The board will now ask for ‘Requests for Proposals’ from architects who would like to present design ideas to the school board. Once those proposals are accepted and considered, the board could move forward with more complete design plans.

The school board passed the motion unanimously.

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The committee said that 8-10 classrooms is necessary at Jeff-Craig because of some rooms now are housed in the middle school.

“We now we need extra square footage,” Peters said. “With kindergarten, this will be the fourth year that we’ve had large classes. The principal would like elementary classes in the elementary building, so we’ll need rooms for that. When you stop and look at it, we’re already heavy in three grades; and in two more years, the middle school is going have those issues.”

Peters said that the committee looked at five classrooms, but with the elementary already housing four rooms outside of the elementary building, that would only be a real addition of one room, and there is already going to be a need for another section of a grade level after last week’s kindergarten registration saw more than 50 students registered.

“We have two classes that are housed at the middle school right now, and we don’t have anywhere for art, it’s on a cart, so there’s three classrooms right there,” Principal Tony Spoores said. “Our Title I room is still in what’s considered a closet. Our LD is still inside a very, very small room; I’d say it’s a big storage closet. There’s five rooms. If you’re looking at our kindergarten enrollment coming in for this next year. We already have three kindergarten, three firsts, and three seconds. You would need to be going up to three third grades, but we don’t have any space for that. That’s six. If that keeps going, you’re going to need one for the fourth grade, one for the fifth, and one for the sixth.”

Board member Bill Roberts asked about enrollment figures now at Jeff-Craig as opposed to what the enrollment was when all county sixth graders were at the school.

Tony Spoores said that when some sixth graders returned to Switzerland County Elementary School, Jeff-Craig was at about 280 students; and currently the school has 355 students – so the enrollment is growing.

“I still think we need a lot more community input,” board member Jill Cord said. “I think a lot of people thought we were still talking about lockerrooms, concession stand, football facilities. I don’t think they were feeling that we were discussing educational classrooms at those particular meetings.”

“I still think if we just get proposals, we’re not out any money and we can still have discussion,” board member Katie Collier said.

Following more discussion, the board agreed to go forward with obtaining Requests for Proposals.