Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
The State of the Schools
Space, heating, infrastructure among issues at JRS School
John Redd Smith Elementary School Principal Ben Boone stands in the teacher workroom at the school. It is too small to hold all the office equipment and lacks planning space, officials said. (Bulletin photos by Paul Collins)
(Editor’s note: The Henry County School Board is considering consolidating John Redd Smith Elementary and nearby Collinsville Primary schools. Today, the Martinsville Bulletin looks at the conditions of John Redd Smith; Collinsville Primary will be featured next.)
Bigger classrooms; a new heating and cooling system and other infrastructure improvements; traffic and other safety improvements are among the many needs at John Redd Smith Elementary cited by Principal Ben Boone.
In its recent capital improvements study for Henry County Public Schools, Moseley Architects recommended consolidating John Redd Smith Elementary and nearby Collinsville Primary and shifting five special-needs classrooms from Stanleytown Elementary to that new school.
Superintendent Jared Cotton and the Henry County School Board are considering the architect’s recommendations.
John Redd Smith Elementary (JRSE) was built in 1952, with annexes built in 1961, according to school board documents.
Sometimes, when a lot of parents come to JRSE at the same time, the line extends outside the school’s main office because the office is small, Boone said during a recent tour of the school.
A teacher work area cannot hold all the office equipment teachers use to prepare their materials, so some of the equipment is stored in a nearby hallway.
Some chairs and tables also are stored in some hallways in cases where teachers lack space to work with students one on one.
The school has at least 30 window air conditioning units because it does not have central air. The school has a boiler heating system.
“Steam pipes throughout the building are original and in need of replacement,” Moseley Architects’ study said. It also called “the original classroom heating systems, very outdated and inefficient.” It added, “Classrooms using window units ... try and maintain comfort for cooling season.”
Boone elaborated: “Heating at times can be a challenge in regards to regulating the temperature. We often have AC units on at the same time the radiators are running because there is no way to control the temperature within the classrooms since we’re on a boiler system. The noise from the AC units can be a distraction, but the teachers do a great job of using the sound amplification systems (microphone systems) so that all students can hear them.”
The architect’s study also noted: “Upper annex has acquired a steam leak underground and had to replace existing window units with units that do both heat and cool. Underground steam leak in cafeteria has resulted in the same as upper annex: installation of new window units that provide both a/c and heat.”
The kitchen lacks heating and cooling, and air comes from window units in the cafeteria, Boone said.
He cited the need for a new heating system for the entire building and a central air system.
Moseley Architects’ report said, “Original windows from 1952, very inefficient.”
Keith Scott, Henry County Public Schools’ supervisor of facilities, said, by way of comparison, the cost of heating or cooling is about $1.50 per square foot at JRSE, compared with $1.20 per square foot at Mt. Olivet Elementary and 81 cents per square foot at Drewry Mason Elementary.
Boone also said classrooms need more space “to set up stations or areas ... that you find in a 21st century classroom. These 21st century classrooms support the (four Cs) that Henry County Public Schools embraces for college and career readiness: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.”
In a 21st century classroom, students will be working at different stations on different skills at the same time, he said.
Also more storage is needed in classrooms, and they need to be painted, Boone said.
According to school and school division officials, and current and previous school board and architect reports, there are security concerns about JRSE having two annexes that are near but not part of the main building, because the school is near businesses and because the school is near U.S. 220 as well as Oakland Drive.
“When students have to go from the annex to the main building an adult has to walk them,” Boone said. If the teacher or teacher aide cannot walk them, the teacher can call the office through the PA system and someone from the office staff will go out to meet the student to walk him or her over, Boone said. Employees have security card access to gain entry to the main building.
There is a covered walkway to each annex, but Boone said, “It would be ideal if outside annexes were connected to the main building as a security precaution.”
According to Moseley Architects’ report, JRSE’s’ roof is due for replacement; the building being on multiple levels, creates access challenges; the kitchen floor needs replacing; older lights need an upgrade; and the location of the school causes back-up with traffic flow.
A new car rider line is needed, so that cars can be separated from buses, Boone said. Vehicles bringing or picking up JRSE children enter one-way on School Drive from U.S. 220 and park on both sides of School Drive, allowing room for buses to pass through, he said.
There have been rare occasions when motorists did not leave enough room for buses to maneuver and had to move, Boone said.
In general, motorists and bus drivers do a good job, and school officials monitor traffic, Boone said.
Daily, though, parents’/grandparents’ vehicles get backed up to 220, but “not too bad, maybe a car or two,” Boone said.
Traffic backup also occurs because vehicles leaving JRSE must go from School Drive onto Primary School Road, on which Collinsville Primary is located, then onto Oakland Drive, according to Boone, Collinsville Primary Principal Lisa Millner and Moseley Architects’ report. Vehicles going to and leaving from Collinsville Primary use Oakland Drive and Primary School Road.
In addition, Boone said, “This one-way street (School Drive) does provide some challenges for parent nights/visitor parking and field trips in which students get back after hours and for our after-school tutoring program.”
He sited the need for more visitor/staff parking, a conference room, new sidewalks, new tile for the main office/entire building, new playground equipment and more cooler space in kitchen.
New curtains are needed for auditorium, which shares space with the gym, he said. He pointed out the gym needs a new floor and new lights, and the gym has some cracked windows. Scott said the gym cannot accommodate parks and recreation games.
Boone said bathrooms at JRSE need to be remodeled. He showed one faculty bathroom, which he said is too small and which often clogs up.
“There is need for updated electrical work,” he said, adding that using too much electrical equipment will trip the breaker.
He also said a new gutter and drainage system is needed. He showed an exterior gutter, causing drainage problems on the ground.
Scott said in terms of square footage, the school’s media center is too small.
April Crowder, co-president of the PTO at John Redd Smith, cited the need for more storage space in classrooms and said it would be nice for the PTO to have some storage space. She also said she believes that, for handicapped students, a one-level school would be preferable to a three-level school.