- Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 10:52
- Published on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 05:52
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At a joint meeting between the Colonial Beach Town Council and the School Board, Chairman Tim Trivett updated the council on the steps involved with relocating the elementary school to the high school campus and the current conditions at the high school. All members of the school board were in attendance, and only Tommy Edwards and Tim Curtin where unable to attend from the council.
The school also presented a proposal to consolidate some of the school buildings in order to help fund the move.
Currently, the elementary school campus is physically located at 315 Douglas Ave., between Wilder Ave. and Livingstone St. The campus, consisting of a hodge-podge of brick and block buildings, trailers and modular units (mod pods), currently houses the schools’ kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms.
Middle-school classrooms once occupied the largest building on the campus- a century-old two-story structure, often referred to as the “Old High School” building. After three natural disasters had damaged the building in a short amount of time, an inspection revealed a serious design flaw, and the building was deemed unsafe for use. A dangerously warped beam turned out to be the major roof support for the structure. The discovery of this hazard (as well as other problems) made staff realize that this building was unsafe to continue to use. So, at least for the time being, the middle-school classrooms are housed in a mod pod behind the new high school building located at 100 First St., just a few blocks away. The newer high school is now 25 years old and houses roughly three hundred ninth-grade through twelfth-grade students each year.
Earlier this year, federal budget cuts of almost $800,000 forced the school system to cut its budget by over $400,000, leaving the school asking the town council for more money. During budget talks, the school announced deplorable conditions in some of the older trailers currently being used to house elementary students. This sparked the idea of moving some of the mod pods, currently in use, to the high school campus and adding a few more to replace the dilapidated trailers.
At the joint meeting, when school officials announced that the move would not take place until next summer, many questions were raised. In a phone interview, Mayor Mike Ham explained that the cost estimate for the move was about $250,000 (which was close to the amount of additional funding requested by the school system), to make up for the federal budget cuts, which caused some confusion.
Now it will be up to the school and the council to work together to find funding for the move (to take place next year).
Trivett explained that the board had not relinquished anything, and that he did not speak for the board, but was simply presenting ideas.
One of his proposed ideas was to sell these lots to raise funds for the move or to act on Councilman Gary Seeber’s suggestion of borrowing against the property’s value.
Trivett first described the primary-school building on the property. The one-story structure consists of six rooms measuring 36’ x 26’ each, and includes a hallway, which is nine feet wide. He suggested that there is adequate parking space in the back, that the boiler and air conditioner units heat and cool the building well, and that this structure, with its own separate entrances and exits, is detached from the condemned 100-year-old building (the “Old High School”).
Trivett believes that primary-school building could be utilized for either government offices or to relocate the police department, which is currently located at 907 McKinney Blvd. and being leased at $2,500 per month.
Trivett explained that he believes that once the old trailers and the mod pods are removed, the property could be very attractive, and the outdoor basketball court could be utilized for community sports. The gymnasium building (affectionately known as the “Cracker Box”, because of its small size) is still usable, but the restrooms are not accessible, because they are inside the condemned building, with no separate entrances or exits.
Trivett also advised that the field where the town’s water tower is located consists of 12 building lots, which Trivett believes are 50’ by 136’ each, and are subdivided. Ten of these twelve lots are owned by the school, and the other two belong to the town (for access to the water tower). Trivett said that the area is zoned R-2, so many things could go there besides residential lots.
Trivett laid out plans for the move...
The elementary school campus currently has two modular units that are being leased on a monthly basis. The school saves the cost of maintenance on these leased units, which is picked up by the modular company. These two units would be moved to the high school campus located on First St. One of the units would be swapped for a 60’ x 30’ multipurpose building, to be used as a gymnasium/cafeteria unit, and one more mod pod would be added. This would result in all grades (K-12) attending school on the same campus. The middle and elementary schools would be self-contained and separate from the high school building. Trivett added, “You won’t find many new schools that don’t have mod pods.”
Several other adjustments would occur. For example, the eighth-grade class would return to being in the high school, which is where it was three years ago, and the parking lot would be repainted to allow for another row of parking.
The buses would drop off elementary and middle-school students first, behind the high school building, then proceed to the regular drop off location for high school students.
The move would also bring about several cost savings. With all grades located on one campus, one school nurse would be able to serve all grades, and one music and art teacher would also suffice. Security could also enhanced with the upgraded buildings and students located on one campus.
All mod pods come with their maintenance being included in the rental price, so school maintenance funds could be utilized for the many repairs needed in the high school building which, according to Trivett, is now 25 years old.
HIGH SCHOOL MAINTENANCE IS NEEDED
The high school building will soon need upgraded appliances for its cafeteria. Trivett estimates $125,000 to replaces these items.
Some restroom stall doors have missing locks, and some doors and sinks are loose from the walls.
Although the gymnasium has had one set of bleachers replaced and its floors redone, the second set of bleachers needs to be replaced. Some double-doors are leaking and need to be replaced or sealed, and other exterior doorways throughout the school have experienced some settling, as well.
On the wish list is new and better lighting for the campus’ exterior, as well as a set of steel gates with “buzz-in” capability at the main entrance.
Among the areas needing maintenance and repairs, the locker rooms (which are not being used during games or P.E.) are the most extreme. Tiles are broken, and use of the facilities would allow for water leakage, mold and mildew.
Although the school has been working to maintain and repair these issues (and many others have been addressed), budget constraints have kept the work from being completed.
Trivett said that the school is not looking to move quickly, “We’re looking at this as not taking place until next summer and not doing it overnight. When we put that other facility over on the hill [the middle school mod pod], we did it over Christmas and it was a nightmare. So this is something we are not advocating as going to take place tomorrow. But hopefully, by next summer we can make all these moves ,and everything could be in place for the new year, starting next year in September.”
“We don’t want to disrupt students; it affects SOL scores. We want to try to do this in an orderly fashion.”
Trivett is a staunch supporter of an independent school system in Colonial Beach and even advocated raising taxes to fund school capital improvement and funding for day-to-day operations. “I was an advocate for raising taxes, because I thought we needed to do that in order to generate the funds to keep things rolling. Some of you weren’t, and I totally understand that, but eventually we’re going to have to decide how we are all going to be in this together, including the public. In order for our town to thrive and grow, we need to keep moving forward.”
Trivett told the council, “One of the major issues that has put us here is the condemnation of the ‘old high school’. It has forced us to take action, even on a temporary basis.” The long-term goal, which Trivett said is probably five years down the road, is to eventually move the location of the school from First St., allowing the building to eventually serve as a government center for town offices.
Trivett said that if the town hadn’t had a dream 20 years ago, the current high school would have never been built. “The kids are our future, they will be sitting where you are soon. We need to leave it better than we found it. If we all strive for that, our community will be a whole lot better.”