The need to address handicap-accessibility obstacles remains a top priority for Elkin City Schools officials as pointed out during a recent board of education meeting.
The school systems major needs for the next five years and 10 years were discussed by officials and school board member Jan. 25 during which the 2015-16 Facility Needs Survey done every five years and submitted to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction was presented by John Altemueller, facilities director for the school system.
“This is a tool DPI uses to calculate and stress needs to the legislators for school facilities,” said Altemueller.
The survey includes three parts, beginning with a breakdown of each facility’s history and student capacity, followed by a five-year plan and a 10-year plan of needs.
As far as the capacity at the three Elkin schools — Elkin Elementary, Elkin Middle and Elkin High — Altemueller reported student numbers are expected to stay fairly level until toward the end of the 10-year period when an increase is possible.
Already with the number of students now being served, he said there are several places where expansions need to be addressed, with those being additions and upgrades to the cafeteria at the elementary school and the one cafeteria which serves both the middle and high school.
In previous facility needs surveys, the school system has expressed a need for a separate middle school campus, but Altemueller said this need has been removed from the 2015-16 survey because “we could not afford to staff it if we had it.”
The need for handicap accessibility needs to be addressed in all facilities, he said, but it is a “dire need” at Elkin High School with the stage in Dixon Auditorium and the gym and its other areas such as the locker rooms, bathrooms and concession area. At present a person on the gym floor cannot access restrooms or concessions, because the locker rooms are a level below the gym and the concessions are a level above the gym.
In a November 2014 facility evaluation presented by Bill Powell, who consults with school systems on facility needs, Elkin City Schools was facing more than $26 million in renovations and upgrades over the 10 years following the study. That evaluation also pointed to the handicap-accessibility issues at the high school as the top priority for the Elkin school system.
During last week’s school board meeting, Altemueller expressed other major needs facing the school system in the next five years, including life cycle replacements such as new heating and cooling systems, plumbing updates, painting, caulking and other routine items.
Also discussed were an addition at the middle school if the board chose to move sixth grade to that facility. The board expressed a preference to keep the sixth grade at the elementary level, which Altemueller said would need a classroom addition to remove the modular unit now housing sixth grade due to the unit’s age in coming years.
Other additions at the middle school needed would be to house offices, guidance and special education classrooms, Altemueller said. An addition of a gym specifically for the middle school also is included in the facility needs survey. The middle and high schools also share a media center.
In the 10-year plan are upgrades to Dixon Auditorium and the schools’ athletic fields, irrigation systems, fieldhouse and concession renovations, he reported.
“This survey mirrors Bill Powell’s study a couple of years ago we presented to the county commissioners,” he told the school board members. “We’re still very front heavy with the first $15 to $18 million in projects needed in the first five years.”
One concern Altemueller expressed was with the need for additions and growth at the schools, all of the schools are land locked with little room to expand.
The school board members unanimously approved the facility needs survey when it approved the consent agenda.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.