The Roane County Board of Education last weekend got a refresher on potential construction and consolidation plans for the county’s high schools.
Lewis Group Architects presented the board with five scenarios last year. It went over those scenarios again during the board’s retreat at Roane State Community College on Saturday.
Scenario 1 calls for keeping Midway and Oliver Springs and combining Harriman, Roane County High and Rockwood into one new school.
Scenario 2 calls for keeping Midway and building two new schools. The Roane County High district would be split between the two new schools.
Some students would go to a new school with Harriman and Rockwood students and others would go to a new school with Oliver Springs students.
Midway would also remain under Scenario 3, while Oliver Springs, Harriman, Roane County High and Rockwood would be combined into one new school.
Scenario 4 would build two new schools. The Roane County High district would be split between the two new schools. Some students would go to a new school with Oliver Springs, Harriman and Rockwood. Others would go to a new school with Midway students.
Scenario 5 calls for building one new high school to serve the Midway, Oliver Springs, Harriman, Roane County High and Rockwood districts.
“Assuming a decision is made in terms of which way to move forward, I think the next steps would be programming and conceptual design, kind of figuring out exactly what goes in the school,” said Lewis Group Director of Design Richard Foster. “Right now, we don’t know.”
The Roane County Commission is the funding body for the school system. Board Member Mike “Brillo” Miller asked the architects how long it would take them to put together something for the board to present to the Commission for funding approval after the board decided on a scenario. Foster said it could take two to three months.
“I think that’s as soon as we’d be ready to go to Commission,” he said.
“That would be the earliest, and do an adequate or above adequate job to get all the information that we needed to do some type of formal presentation to the Commission,” Lewis Group Founder and President Jerry W. Lewis added.
Miller said he wants the cost estimate as close as possible before going to the Commission.
“We’d have to be completely down to the number because I wouldn’t ask County Commission and then we come back and say, ‘Oh Lord, sorry, but the land was $1 million higher than we thought,” he said.
“We want to have all our ducks in a row,” Lewis responded. “We want to feel really good about what we’re doing, what our costs are and get it right the first time.”
Board Member Rob Jago said he worries about Midway and Oliver Springs.
“My one concern is if we don’t do one or two new high schools or whatever, the one or two schools, Midway or Oliver Springs left out, is there anyway in the future if you built one of those scenarios?” Jago said. “I don’t see room according to your capacity for them to migrate in there. They’re going to be out there. They’re not going to come into the other school because you’re not building it with common areas big enough and all that, so they’re going to be out.”
Lewis Group Vice President Todd Brang said future expansion can be considered.
“We’ll design it to be able to expand, so that if one day down the road that happens, we can do that,” Brang said.
“If you plan it from the beginning, then when you make those additions then it doesn’t interfere with operation of the school,” Foster added.
The architects said there are savings in operational costs with each scenario.
“The operational costs, obviously scenario 5 as we worked our way down has potential for more operational costs savings than scenario 1, but we think it’s probably more expensive to build scenario 5 than it would be scenario 2 or 3,” Foster said. “Not by a lot. I think the margin between that is fairly tight.”
During the discussion on scenario 5, the architects said the new high school could be built to accommodate 2,400 to 2,500 students. Miller asked about the possibility of building a freshman academy to reduce the number of students under one roof.
“We did that in Jefferson County,” Foster replied.
Board Member Vic King asked how much land would be needed for a new high school that included a freshman academy.
“Normally you’re looking at somewhere of a minimum of 25 to 30 acres,” Lewis said. “We’ve gone up as much as some places 50 acres … Most of that is not because the building itself is so big, but it usually incorporates athletic fields – baseball, softball, track, soccer.”
Foster said the soonest the county could have a new school ready to move into is 2020.
“What we need to be able to get to is having a better idea of what building costs might be, so you can go to County Commission with something firm,” he said. “You won’t know that until we know exactly what goes into the school. Is it two schools? Is it one school?”
Chairman Sam Cox asked the architects how they would handle rolling a plan out to the community.
“It’s the way that you all want to go,” Brang said.
“It’s our call,” Miller responded.
“Absolutely,” Brang said.
No votes were taken on any of the scenarios, but Board Member Hugh Johnson said he appreciated the discussion.
“I think we’re moving forward now,” Johnson said. “We’re together. Now it’s ‘get ’er done’ time.”