BIG STONE GAP - The half-century-old Powell Valley High School would get a major makeover if recommendations from architects are adopted, and so will the other five high schools in Wise County. All that remains to be decided is how to proceed, and how much it will all cost.
Public meetings have begun at each of the six high schools to allow citizens to get a preview of what architects and engineers are recommending for each facility. Infrastructure such as electrical, plumbing, windows, heating/air conditioning, added classroom spaces and the like will be common upgrades for all six schools, but each high school will - if architectural plans are adopted as presented - receive improvements tailored to their needs.
A meeting at Pound High School was held Tuesday, and personnel from the Johnson City firm of Beeson, Lusk & Street presented the Powell Valley recommendations on Thursday. Similar presentations will be provided at Coeburn High School on Feb. 20, J.J. Kelly High School on Feb. 21, and Appalachia and St. Paul High Schools, both on Feb. 22. All meetings begin at 6 p.m.
Beeson, Lusk & Street's Peter L. Heimbach Jr. provided a detailed preview of what is envisioned for Powell Valley's overhaul. Improvements would include a major two-story classroom addition, a reconfigured central office with visual security provided at the main entrance, a covered entry, larger library, and larger cafeteria/kitchen.
Some of the other details include elimination of the long-loathed "cottage" classrooms in the back of the facility; outdated science labs would be renovated and expanded; renovated spaces provided for math, English and business classes; overhauled gym locker rooms and a connection built from the gym section to the field house; a new addition behind the stage for drama/band/chorus storage; top-to-bottom technological upgrades; addressing needs for doors, safety and security matters; asbestos removal; making rest rooms disabilities compliant; and giving the front of the building a "fresh, new" appearance.
"This is the first real information we've gotten. Right now it's pretty much been a blank sheet of paper," said Wise County Supervisor John Peace II prior to Thursday's meeting. Peace is a 1987 graduate of PVHS and finds himself in a decision-making position on the Board of Supervisors to influence the outcome of renovations to all six high schools.
Cost estimates that won't be revealed until a Feb. 27 special session of the Wise County School Board are the big unknown. Looming just as large may be a construction schedule with high schools waiting turns for renovations over a period of several years, something mentioned as a possibility by Heimbach on Thursday.
"We can only afford what we can afford," Peace said. But his alma mater, he added, is "still a big asset to the community. We will need to look at all the options and see what we can afford to do."
PVHS Principal David Lee said elimination of the three "trailers" out back would be a godsend. Referred to kindly by architects as "cottage classrooms," the temporary classrooms have been out back for so long, they grew brick walls and real roofs over the years. Lee said a larger cafeteria and classroom spaces are also priorities in his book.