As Elkin City Schools’ elected officials have worked the last few years to gradually meet the capital needs of the school district, next on the list is addressing the need for a second gymnasium facility and upgrading the existing one at Elkin High School to meet handicap-accessibility regulations.
With Surry County commissioners recently voting to take out a loan to fund more school projects, during its recent retreat, the Elkin City Schools Board of Education heard a proposed site plan for one option of how to make those plans come to fruition from Rob Johnson and Rick Brown, principals at architectural firm, boomerang DESIGN out of Charlotte.
The company’s representatives had done a “windshield” tour of the campus, but came back a couple of weeks ago for a detailed walk-through to see what the project planners would be up against and how to best accomplish the task. “A high school gym is very special,” said Johnson, “because it is athletics, it is exercise and it is a community asset.”
He said, “There is no perfect solution,” but said it may take several design schemes to get to the final chosen plan to meet as many needs as possible.
The design boomerang proposed at the retreat would include a 30,047-square-foot building, meeting the four main goals of the project — a new second gym, improving Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility on campus, being functional and efficient in its design, and providing accurate cost projections.
Of the more than 30,000-square feet, Johnson explained the net square-footage would be 17,590 to include a new gym, 500 bleacher seats, two storage spaces, boys and girls locker rooms with showers and dressing area, three offices for teachers/coaches and the athletic director, a wrestling room with an overhead mat hoist for storage, a weight room, two health/flexible classrooms, a concession area, two bathrooms, two more storage rooms and a janitorial space.
The cost for the facility was not provided, but Johnson estimated construction to range from $225 to $275 per square foot. Using $250 as an average cost, that would bring the new construction in at $7.5 million. That cost did not include any design fees, site work like utility and parking requirements, renovations to the existing gym, contingency funding, surveys, testing, furniture, technology and loose equipment, he said.
The design fee will run the school system 10 to 12 percent of the final cost of the project, so officials were guessing that to be between $600,000 and $800,000.
If the layout proposed at the retreat turns out to be the one decided on, it would provide a connector area, like a commons or wide hallway, where the existing gym would meet the new facility, with the new gym being constructed to the east of the existing gym behind the student parking area.
Also, the connector portion would include an elevator that would get spectators and students from the top level of the gym down to the football field level, making the ball fields ADA compliant as well, Johnson said in response to a board members question.
School board member Dr. Jane Riley questioned the expense of putting the new gym in an area that requires multiple levels, rather than constructing it on flat ground like where the student parking lot is now and relocating the parking area possibly with a parking deck. But Johnson said, while building the gym on flat land would be cheaper, the cost of a parking deck also is expensive and it would not help address the ADA compliance issues in the existing gym like a new gym and connector would.
The boomerang representatives shared pictures of some of the projects they’ve worked on in other school systems, such as Statesville High School, South Point, Powdersville and Brevard High School.
Superintendent Dr. Myra Cox asked about how construction will impact students and athletic events on campus. “It has got to be planned. A construction site is very dangerous, but what we do as part of the planning, we’ve got to have a plan so that when the contractor mobilizes, safety zones are set up,” said Johnson.
Also, the new gym would be built and completed prior to any work being done on the existing facility so that a gym is available.
In discussing the proposed plans, the question of whether the project included ADA compliance for the auditorium came up, and Johnson said that was not included in the plans presented, but could be added as another option, noting that it would increase the cost of the project.
A preliminary planning schedule for the project showed that construction could take place during the March 2018 through summer of 2019 time frame.
The Surry County Board of Commissioners plans to borrow $30 million to help address school needs across the county, which includes Elkin City Schools. No definitive means of dividing that money between the three systems — Elkin, Mount Airy and Surry County — has been finalized, but commissioners did suggest allocating those funds based on per-student capita, giving Elkin about $3 million to spend.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.