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Boards to pursue joining two schools
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Jared Cotton (from left), superintendent of Henry County Schools, speaks to county government and county schools officials in the media center of Magna Vista High School on a school tour. Among those pictured are Joe DeVault (second from left), chairman of the school board; Darrell Jones (fourth from left), county finance director; County Attorney George Lyle (fifth from left); DeWitt House (sixth from left), assistant superintendent instruction/accountability and student achievement for Henry County Schools; Supervisor Joe Bryant (next to House on the front row); Supervisor H.G. Vaughn (next to Bryant on the front row); Jim Adams (next to Vaughn on the front row), chairman of the supervisors; and Tommy Slaughter (far right), vice chairman of the supervisors. (Bulletin photo by Paul Collins)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

At a joint meeting Monday night, the Henry County Board of Supervisors and county school board reached a consensus for County Administrator Tim Hall and schools Superintendent Jared Cotton to explore how John Redd Smith Elementary and Collinsville Primary could be replaced with a combined K-5 school.

A big part of what they will look at is possible funding, including the possibility of setting up a joint capital improvement project fund to make it possible to do costly projects that neither county government nor the county school division might be able to do on their own.

The school division estimated several years ago that it would cost $15,120,000 to replace Collinsville Primary and John Redd Smith Elementary with a combined K-5 school, but Cotton said he wasn’t comfortable using data several years old.

Curtis Millner, who represents the Iriswood District on the school board, suggested that a study be done that would look at such things as where the best site would be for a new school and population and enrollment trends. Millner said some of that information already may be available. Supervisor H.J. Vaughn said Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School’s needs and trends also need to be considered when exploring building a combined school to replace Collinsville Primary and John Redd Smith.

Cotton said after the meeting data will be compiled so that the combined school project can be viewed in the context of the school division’s enrollment trends and facility needs.

A number of officials expressed concerns about the possibility of building a combined school on the present land of the two schools, which are next to each other. And they said a new site should be found.

The concerns they raised were there may not be enough suitable land there for a combined school; students would have to be relocated to another school facility during construction; and the fact that the two existing schools are in a business district, which causes congestion and security concerns. Also, substantial grading would be required.

Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant mentioned at one point the possibility of tearing down the two schools, selling the land and finding a better location for construction of a combined school.

Reed Creek Supervisor Tommy Slaughter, who is vice chairman of the board, said, “I can’t imagine putting another school back” on the land occupied by the two schools. He suggested finding a new site and selling the existing Collinsville Primary and John Redd Smith buildings.

Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan said a perfect scenario would be if a site with 10-plus acres could be found and students could remain at Collinsville Primary and John Redd Smith during construction....

... And if someone would write a check to pay for the project, County Administrator Tim Hall said with a laugh.

Cotton said it’s possible a new school could serve not only as a school but meet other community needs, such as a recreation center or library. An example of that was successfully done in Virginia Beach, he said.

Bryant suggested the local public library could save rent money if it were at a combined school.

Francis Zehr, who represents the Ridgeway District on the school board, said a capital improvement projects fund is needed.

Kathy Rogers, who represents the Collinsville District on the school board, said in Roanoke County, a capital improvement projects fund allows county government and the county school division to share resources and not compete.

Supervisor Milton Kendall, who represents the Iriswood District, said, “It’s definitely time to replace those buildings.”

John Redd Smith was constructed in 1952 and two annexes were added in 1961, which was the last comprehensive renovation at the school — longer ago than at any other school in the division. That’s according to school division officials and a PowerPoint presentation. Members of the school board and board of supervisors and county government and county school division officials toured John Redd Smith and Magna Vista High School Monday afternoon before holding the joint meeting at the county administration building Monday night.

Among the issues/challenges at John Redd Smith mentioned during the tour and in the PowerPoint presentation were: original windows due for an upgrade, inefficient heating and air-conditioning units (in some classrooms the heating units and window air conditioning units have to run at the same time on cold days), inadequate storage space in classrooms, and the need for lighting improvements. Others include: demands on the school’s electrical system to accommodate modern technology, inadequate space in the media center, some narrow hallways with exposed piping, multiple levels throughout the school with no internal handicapped ramps.

Other issues/challenges at John Redd Smith include various security concerns, inadequate teacher planning rooms, no backup power system for the school, inadequate classroom space for students to do collaborative projects, inadequate space for teachers to do individual instruction or to hold conferences (in one hallway, there was a desk for this). The cafeteria kitchen floor needs replacing, the cafeteria has only window cooling units, restrooms are outdated, and the bus loop and car rider loop cause traffic back-ups.

According to the PowerPoint presentation, Collinsville Primary School was constructed in 1968. Air-conditioning added in 2003. The roof was replaced in 2011.

The school has three mobile units, creating a “vulnerability issue.” The bus loop and car rider loop cause traffic back-ups The HVAC system was added to energy management system in 2012. It is the only school that combines gym, cafeteria, and auditorium.

Joe Bryant said during the night meeting, “It’s time to try to plan and have a new building (combined school) in Collinsville.’

Tim Hall said of the project, “It’s not a you problem. It’s an us problem.”

He called the dialogue between the two boards “refreshing.”

“I am really encouraged by the dialogue,” he said, adding, “We’ve got to have a plan we can move on. ... We’re out of Band-Aids.”

One possible factor that needs to be considered is the city’s study of reversion, Hall said.

Hall and Cotton will present follow-up information and possible options to the two boards when they meet again next month for budget discussions.

At Monday night’s meetings, officials discussed numerous other school capital needs.


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