During a special workshop session on Friday, Wise County School Board members agreed to look into ways to pare down renovation recommendations for each of the six high schools.
On Feb. 27, the four architectural and engineering firms hired to assess needs and recommend improvements at each school provided a preliminary total cost estimate for all six projects at nearly $110 million, a price estimate pretty much declared dead on arrival by many members of the county's funding authority for schools, the Board of Supervisors.
However, when supervisors approved a resolution last April requesting a full assessment by the school board of facility upgrade options at all the high schools, supervisors also set a deadline of May of this year. So a formal presentation from the school division on an ultimate project and funding request has yet to arrive before supervisors.
The school board agreed Friday to whittle recommended upgrades down to around $77 million worth of improvements. School board members also agreed to seek input into potential cuts from principals and teachers at each high school and to gather public input from constituents in their separate districts before crafting a revamped renovations proposal.
School board clerk Judy Clawson confirmed that Monday's afternoon meeting between high school principals and School Superintendent Greg Killough was for Killough to advise the principals that school board members would be seeking input from each school's administrative and academic personnel concerning potential cuts to the project proposals.
Discussions during Friday's workshop session indicated principals will be asked to get input from teachers at their schools, and provide that as well as their own perspectives to their respective board members.
New additions and/or expanded spaces recommended for each of the schools are jeopardized by the need for cuts.
On the chopping block will be a new gym and expanded band room and cafeteria/kitchen for J.J. Kelly High School; a new classroom addition, expanded cafeteria/kitchen and larger auditorium access/storage area for Powell Valley High School; as well as an assortment of proposed additions and other upgrades at all the other high schools as well.
Most likely to stay in the plans are basic improvements such as HVAC, electrical, plumbing, disabilities compliance issues, windows, and safety issues such as fire systems.
In a related matter, Appalachia school board member Mark Hutchinson told other school board members on Friday that Abingdon-based architectural firm Appalachian Technical Services Inc. had strong-armed AHS Principal Joseph "Buzz" Akridge into accepting upgrade recommendations neither the principal nor teachers wanted for their school.
Akridge did not give that impression during a public meeting with the firm at the school last month when design proposals for Appalachia were revealed.
On Monday, Akridge confirmed he finds all the proposed ATS design elements for his school very attractive.
"I did. I liked it," Akridge said Monday. "I thought John Ponish (ATS vice president of architecture and civil engineering) and his group did a beautiful job, and if we won the lottery? We could do it. That was a dream. But nothing was crammed down my throat or the school's throat."