Evaluation sought before commitment

Nov. 21, 2013 @ 08:19 PM

The Vance County school board is considering major renovations and a new middle school building, but some board members want to see a comprehensive, long-range evaluation done first.

At Thursday’s building and grounds committee meeting, the members voted to present the full school board with a request to complete a long-range facilities survey by an outside consultant at the next full board meeting in December.

Earlier this month, the board approved the superintendent’s request to complete a new school application for the science, technology, engineering and math middle school. The Early High School STEM program is currently housed in Northern Vance High School.

Superintendent Ronald Gregory said the two story Eaton-Johnson Middle School would be a suitable location for the STEM program, but the building needs some renovations before it can serve as the new middle school.

“We are sitting on a gold mine,” Gregory said of the building. “We all know that smaller learning communities are the way to attack graduation rates.”

County commissioners have previously been reluctant to funding the idea.

Claiborne Woods, director of facilities, said the most recent professional comprehensive survey was done in 1995.

A long-range facilities evaluation would help the board prioritize funding for renovations to the building, as well as other construction projects that will be budgeted into capital outlay funds.

A permanent fix to the heating system at Western Vance High School is another renovation project that will be included in a future capital outlay budget.

Woods and his staff recently repaired leaks on about 200-300 feet of pipe, which are 93 years old, at Western Vance. The school has served as an alternative high school for at-risk students the past 10 years, graduating 487 students.

The building and grounds committee agreed to use portable heating units at a cost of $10,858 per month, as a contingency plan in case the heating system fails this winter.

Woods said the heating system has not required any further repairs since it was turned on this year.

Since the Department of Public Instruction no longer conducts long-range surveys of local school systems, the school board would use its staff or hire a private consultant.

Woods said his staff would be stretched too thin if they were tasked with completing a comprehensive facility survey. He said they would likely hire an outside firm, but he could not estimate how much it would cost.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.