Board of Education to Meet with County Mayor and Commissioners to Review Proposed School Building Plans

April 13, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Elementary School

County Mayor Tim Stribling and members of the County Commission’s Education and Library Committee will meet Monday night in a work session with Director of Schools Patrick Cripps and the Board of Education to review plans for a school building program.

The informal meeting will take place at 6:00 p.m. at the Ernest Ray Education Center and all DeKalb County Commissioners are invited to attend. No action can be taken.

Following an evaluation of current school facilities and projected future needs, the DeKalb County Board of Education has been presented a variety of construction plans at a cost ranging from $17 million to $45 million for new or renovated facilities.

Members of the local board of education met in a workshop in December for their first look at results of a School Facilities Study prepared by the Upland Design Group of Crossville.

The study concluded that Smithville Elementary School, the oldest core building in the district, should be replaced and repurposed for other uses.

The board hired the architectural firm last September to conduct a county-wide facilities study in planning for future building needs. Upland Design was paid $19,500 for its services.

The school board plans are to narrow the number of options but wants input from the county commission’s education committee before any plan is formally presented to the county commission for consideration.

The facilities study by Upland Design concluded that DeKalb West School was in the best condition and should remain as is; that Smithville Elementary needs to be replaced and repurposed; and that issues exist at Northside Elementary, DCHS, and DeKalb Middle Schools which need to be addressed.

Derrick Clemow and Brian Templeton of Upland Design Group met with the school board during the December workshop to review the findings and to offer options for addressing them.

Upland Design presented six (construction) options (schemes) for the board to consider along with the pros and cons of each option or scheme.

A summary of those options is as follows: (CLICK PDF LINK BELOW EACH OPTION TO VIEW SPECIFICS)

A-OPTION (SCHEME): (2) Pre-K to 5th grade elementary schools; middle and high schools expanded for increased lifespan (CLICK LINK TO VIEW OPTION)
scheme a.pdf (22.9 KB)

B-OPTION (SCHEME): Replace Smithville Elementary School; middle and high schools expanded for increased lifespan (CLICK LINK TO VIEW OPTION)
scheme B.pdf (162.8 KB)

C-OPTION (SCHEME): All schools Pre-K to 8th grade; high school expanded for increased lifespan (CLICK LINK TO VIEW OPTION)
scheme c.pdf (210.56 KB)

D-OPTION (SCHEME) Pre-K to 8 grade options; high school takes over middle school campus(CLICK LINK TO VIEW OPTION)
scheme D.pdf (190.78 KB)

E-OPTION (SCHEME) All schools Pre-K to 8th grade; high school takes over middle school campus(CLICK LINK TO VIEW OPTION)
scheme E.pdf (189.77 KB)

F-OPTION (SCHEME) New high school; middle school takes over high school campus; elementary school takes over middle school campus (CLICK LINK TO VIEW OPTION)
scheme F.pdf (225.27 KB)

Upland Design was asked to come up with another option involving the middle school and to report back to the school board.

Following is a synopsis of each school:

*SMITHVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL:

Smithville Elementary School, originally built in 1958, now is 70,557 square feet in size, and has a current enrollment of 575 students.

“For the purpose of this study, Smithville Elementary is to be obsolesced,” said Clemow. Basically, we evaluated and started with a premise that this is a site (Smithville Elementary) that should be repurposed for some other purpose. We looked at maybe moving the central office there. Maybe maintenance could move there. Maybe an alternative school could be located there.”

The facilities study concluded that “as the oldest campus facility, condition is a major concern. In consideration of the following providing an alternative location for the students is a consensus:

A. Campus location is undesirable
B. Traffic flow is poor
C. Cafeteria/Kitchen is undersized
D. Oldest portion is over a crawl space and mold is potential
E. Security is difficult to maintain when multiple buildings are present
F. Spaces are not functionally ideal
G. Three of the second-grade classes are currently at Northside Elementary

Upland Design gave options how Smithville Elementary School could be used for other purposes:
A. Move central office staff to Smithville Elementary
B. Move maintenance storage and staff to area in and around kitchen/cafeteria
C. Relocate Adult Education or Alternative School Classrooms in the eastern wing
D. Make the site available for other county programs.

*NORTHSIDE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL:

Northside Elementary School, built in 2000, is 85,000 square feet in size with an enrollment of 655 students.

Upland Design concluded that Northside is at capacity.

“It (Northside) was originally planned for 650 students in grades 3-5. It is at capacity today based on the fact that there are second graders over there that fill it out all the way,” Clemow said. “If you were to pull the second graders out of there it would be back to a fair-sized school and would have a little bit of expansion in it as a grade 3, 4, 5 facility. But as a grade 3,4,5 it doesn’t have the lower grade toilet facilities that are normally connected to existing classrooms. Little kids really need to have a toilet handy. So if this school should become a Pre-K through 8 or whatever, there would have to be some modifications toilet wise. Also for the size kids there and the numbers who are run through there, the cafeteria is just about maxed out in terms of its usage. It takes a few hours to feed the kids. It basically is functioning as intended and conditionally is in fairly good shape. The school was also built during the pre-security days. A parent can walk in and make it to the back of the school without anyone knowing. That is a fairly easy correction in this case because you do have a central entrance and you could make a vestibule there” he added.

The facilities study found that “this site now accepts 3 classes of second graders due to overcrowding at Smithville Elementary. Northside was originally planned for grades 3-5 and 650 pupils. The campus is at capacity. This is quite evident in the afternoon rush. Lower grade in-classroom toilets were not provided. The cafeteria is at capacity.

The site is large enough to consider expansion, although traffic circulation is a challenge. There needs to be a security vestibule created at the entry.

The cafeteria space is limited as is other core spaces encouraging a 625 pupil population.”

*DEKALB MIDDLE SCHOOL:

DeKalb Middle School, built in 1971, is now 86,990 square feet in size with an enrollment of 550 students.

According to the facilities study, “the school was originally designed as a modified open plan and as a result acoustic problems and circulation create an interruptive classroom arrangement. Dining and library spaces lack acoustical isolation. The newer gymnasium provides needed P.E. space although it is not cooled (no air conditioning). Security is a challenge since the administrative space is a central space and students go outside to get to the gymnasium. Toilet accommodations are marginally sufficient for the student population. All spaces are currently utilized. The auditorium is too small for assemblies. The site does not provide for several sports and lacks space for addition without site drainage developments.”

*DEKALB COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL:

DeKalb County High School, constructed in 1963, is now 127,317 square feet in size with an enrollment of 860 students.

“There are portable classrooms. The high school has six to eight floating teachers. What that means is while they have other things they do in their capacity, they don’t have a home room,” Clemow said. “When they go to work they have to use a room that is shared with somebody else. What happens with high schools is that the curriculum changes all the time and with this school it is clear that with the 860 kids who are there now, they are pretty much falling out the doors (overcrowded). The first thing we always hear there (DCHS) is that the corridors are ridiculously tight and when there is a class change, it’s a zoo. That’s a difficult one to treat because it falls right at the core of the building. Security is also really difficult to handle. The only way to handle security at a campus situation like this is to gate it but once you gate it, you have to man the gate but in this case you not only have a high school but a junior high school so there is no telling how difficult it would be to create a security situation for this facility.
It is one of those things that is definitely on the radar as needing repair, update, potential replacement,” he continued. “We looked at all of it. It is not something that we found in particularly great shape and you all know it," said Clemow

The facilities study found that “the high school has grown on this site for many years. Over the years there have been four major additions and many other renovations. The primary circulation spaces are as original and are woefully undersized. Although well maintained, the original structure shows signs of aging. Campus security is inadequate as many buildings require exterior access. Pedestrian and vehicular flow intersects. Playing field spaces are marginal and do not accommodate all organized team activities. Some P.E. programs are held outside of designated school facilities. Three or four temporary portable classrooms house educational functions. Many spaces have been repurposed for more contemporary curriculum, but many program offerings would require spaces with specific features".

DEKALB WEST SCHOOL:

The facility study found DeKalb West School to be in the best condition of all the five schools.

DeKalb West School, built in 1974, is now 76,044 square feet in size with an enrollment of 405 students.

According to the facilities study, “this school has adequate facilities for the current population and programs for the near future. Some students are brought by parents from out of the bus routes. Uniquely, the county-wide Middle School baseball program is at this site. Class sizes vary from 40-48 with a downsized 4th grade at 30.

Administrators note that moving on to the high school is a social adjustment when compared to DeKalb Middle School entrants.

For this study, this campus is to remain as is.”

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