Architects outline cuts to school plans in Wise

Stephen Igo • May 1, 2007 at 12:30 PM

WISE - Representatives of four architectural and engineering firms hired to handle renovations to Wise County's six aging high schools presented the county school board with revised project scopes on Monday to pare the initial projected total cost from $109.5 million.

Recommendations reviewed by the Wise County School Board provide a projected price tag that still tops $85 million, or even $88 million if St. Paul's "renovations light" plan is selected.

Architects recommended cuts that would pare more than $4.85 million from the initial J.J. Kelly High School proposal, from a $29.8 million project to less than $25 million. The school with the next largest sacrifice in dollars is St. Paul High School at $4.8 million in cuts, bringing that project cost estimate down from the initial $7.2 million to less than $2.4 million. Cuts of nearly $4.8 million are proposed for Pound High School, from an initial $16 million project to less than $11.3 million.

In the bottom half of dollars and project scopes slashed, $3.95 million would be cut from the Appalachia High School proposal from an initial cost estimate of less than $18.6 million to more than $14.6 million. Coeburn High School's new project cost would be just under $14.3 million from the initial $17.7 million estimate, a savings of nearly $3.5 million. Powell Valley High School's estimated tab would be reduced by $2.16 million, from the initial $19.85 million to just under $17.7 million.

Total savings is just over $24 million. The new cost estimate of just over $85 million - or close to $88 million if St. Paul doesn't have to give up so many upgrades - is above the $77 million target the board established when pursuing ways to cut costs.

New additions, including new classroom spaces and electronic classrooms, went onto the chopping block. Bill Thompson of Thompson & Litton, Inc. - in charge of the J.J. Kelly, Pound and Coeburn projects - told the board the primary way to cut back on costs is to cut down on new square footage. The school division also directed the architects to ditch plans for a 10 percent enrollment increase and assume a stagnant or even decreasing student population.

Thompson also said "shared" classroom spaces for various classes, rather than devoting a space to a certain discipline, would "utilize every available space every moment of the day."

He said electronic classrooms getting the ax might not be a bad thing as long as every classroom is wired to the latest technology and renovated to accommodate future technological breakthroughs.

The size of a new gym proposed for J.J. Kelly in Wise would be reduced, from an 1,800- to 2,000-seat capacity facility to closer to 1,400. The classroom addition would be shrunk and the initial main entry proposal scrapped for a new set of steps to accommodate wheelchair ramps.

The new Pound proposal would eliminate an expanded front, reduction of a classroom addition, elimination of an addition to the gym, and a much smaller kitchen addition. Also, boys and girls will share physical education locker room and shower facilities.

Coeburn would see a reduction in the proposed administrative wing by about one-third, and cutting a two-story classroom addition down to one story.

Three proposed new classrooms for Powell Valley would be cut. Also eliminated from the original proposal at Powell Valley will be a new stage dressing and storage area, a new science lab, a link to the field house, and a new front building entry.

Jack Ponish with ATS told the board revisions to the Appalachia High School project were "real simple." A new addition linking the academic building to the gym that would have housed a new main entry, administrative offices and some classrooms as well as an elevator got cut.

The library would be moved into smaller quarters now housing the AHS family and consumer living spaces, the administrative offices would be relocated into the library/media center space, and the family and consumer living space will move into the former administrative offices.

Visitors will still enter a stairwell as a main entrance to AHS.

Because St. Paul was built in the 1970s and not the 1950s as were the other five schools, it didn't need as many upgrades as the others. Cuts scaled back that project to primarily maintenance type items in nature. A classroom addition was reduced, the library won't be expanded, and administrative offices and security features were tossed.

Also, costs for mobile classrooms - referred to as "learning cottages" and needed when renovations get under way, are not added into the total cost of the six projects. School Superintendent Greg Killough told the board those costs will depend on the project schedule the board chooses, brushing the touchy subject of phasing in the renovations over a number of years.

What the schools and taxpayers will get for between $85 million and nearly $90 million will be air conditioning, windows, plumbing fixes, electrical and other wiring upgrades including for technology, and primarily other basic mechanical improvements. Interiors will sport dropped ceilings in most cases to accommodate electrical, technological and lighting upgrades.

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