Board of Education Making Plans for Future School Building Program

October 11, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education is making plans for a school building program to meet existing and future space and curriculum needs.

Under consideration is a proposal to build a new high school for grades 9 to 12, renovate the existing high school making it into the new location for DeKalb Middle school for grades 5-8, make renovations and additions to DeKalb West School, make Northside Elementary a school for grades 2 to 4, and make Smithville Elementary a school for Pre-K and first grade. The total project cost is between $34-million and $40-million dollars.

Members of the school board met in a workshop session Thursday night, prior to the regular meeting, with Mike Brock, David Brown, and Pam Huddleston of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones, and Morris Architects, Incorporated. The company has two locations, one in Mount Juliet and another in Knoxville.

This firm has prepared, at no cost to the county or school system, a facility study which shows the classroom capacity, the actual student population, and the core capacity of each school. Brown says the purpose of the study is to "gather enough information from the director, teachers, administrators,and the community, and then put it all together from our architectural and school design perspective to give you some ideas as to what the status of your schools are right now and what your options are for handling growth and overcrowding and how to address issues should you decide to build new or add on to existing schools."

Brown explained that the classroom capacity, on the elementary school level, is based on the BEP student/teacher ratio formula. The core capacity is the number of students for which the school was designed and built to accommodate.

According to the survey, DeKalb West School has a classroom capacity of 470, a student population of 428, and a core capacity of 320. Since the core capacity number should be larger than the classroom capacity and student population, Brown says this means that DeKalb West School is "growing by more students than they have school to handle".

Brown says the core capacity is also exceeded by the student population at Smithville Elementary School. According to the survey, the classroom capacity at SES is 740, the student population is 645, and the core capacity is 528.

The study shows that student overcrowding is currently not a major concern at Northside Elementary and DeKalb Middle School as far as infrastructure, but Brown says "that doesn't mean there are not other issues there. One of the most critical issues you can face is overcrowding or exceeding the infrastructure of the school. There are some issues on that front at DeKalb West and Smithville Elementary, but not quite as bad at Northside and DeKalb Middle School."

According to the study, the classroom capacity at Northside Elementary School is 575, the student population is 526, and the core capacity is 750.

At DeKalb Middle School, the classroom capacity is 620, the student population is 527, and the core capacity is 800.

Brown explained that there is a different set of design criteria for high schools. While elementary schools are designed around classroom BEP student/teacher ratios, high schools are designed around curriculums and courses offered.

The student population at DeKalb County High School is 821 and the core capacity is 1000. Brown explained that while the typical size of a high school is 175 to 200 square feet per student, DeKalb County High School is at 145 square feet per student, and the reason the core capacity number is larger than the student population is primarily due to the addition of the cafeteria a few years ago, which created more square footage, but didn't fully address other curriculum issues. Brown says new or more modern elementary schools are now usually designed for 125 square feet per student and 150 square feet per student for newer middle schools.

The architects have proposed that a new high school be built for grades 9 to 12. This facility would not only address the space and curriculum needs at the high school level but would also avoid large addition/renovation projects at the middle school and elementary schools. The approximate student population would be 850 with a core capacity of 1,200 for a core utilization of 70% and an average of 212 students per grade. A new 1,200 student high school facility (with athletic fields) would cost $28-million to $32-million dollars.

The plan calls for renovation of the existing high school into a grade 5-8 DeKalb Middle School with an approximate population of 675 and a core capacity of 1,000 with a core utilization of 68% and an average of 168 students per grade.

According to the study, DeKalb West would remain a Pre-K to eighth grade school but there would be additions and renovations to increase the core capacity of the school. The plan calls for the kitchen/cafeteria to either be expanded or replaced as well as the addition of four classrooms. The approximate population would be 428 with a core capacity of 600, a core utilization of 71%, and an average of 48 students per grade. The proposed addition would increase the core capacity. The estimated cost of making the addition to DeKalb West including a new kitchen/cafeteria, classrooms, and administration would be $1.5 million to $2- million dollars.

Northside Elementary would become a school for grades 2 to 4. The second grade would be moved from Smithville Elementary and the fifth grade would go from Northside to DeKalb Middle School. This would relieve the pressure on SES without requiring an addition at Northside. The approximate population at Northside would be 508 with a core capacity of 750, core utilization of 67%, and an average of 170 students per grade. The renovation at Smithville Elementary, Northside, and DeKalb Middle Schools is projected to be $750,000 to $1.5 million dollars.

By moving the second grade to Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary's student population would be back within the natural core capacity of the school without an addition, although some minor renovation would still be needed. The approximate student population at SES would be 477, the core capacity 528 and the core utilization would be at 90%.

The study further finds that since there is not a need for another elementary school in this configuration, the existing DeKalb Middle School could be re-tasked as an Adult Learning Center, Alternative School, offices, etc.

Again, the preliminary budget to fund this project comes to $34-million to $40-million which includes, in addition to the construction costs, $650,000 to $750,000 for furniture and equipment; $500,000 to $600,000 for technology; $1.8 million to $2.2 million in fees for site survey, geotechnical, civil engineering, environmental, fire marshal, legal, design, printing and a 3% contingency of $900,000 to $1 million dollars.

The budget figures do not include additional code required upgrades to existing facilities and do not include land acquisition costs. The figures may change based on site survey, environmental and geotechnical information not yet provided. These budget figures should be valid for 12 to 18 months.

This facility study was only presented to the board for review during the workshop and was not discussed during the regular meeting Thursday night. The board has taken no action on it.

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