September 21, 2019

NCDPI Facility Survey recommends options for closing Taylorsville and/or Sugar Loaf schools

Alexander County Board of Education members met in a Special Called Meeting on Feb. 22 to receive a copy of the NCDPI Facility Survey.

In a special called meeting on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, at 12:30 p.m., the Alexander County Board of Education members simultaneously received a copy of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) Facility Survey & Recommendations Report, which included the state survey team’s recommendations on the County’s elementary schools and all facilities. This state survey was requested last year by the school board, following discussion and public meetings on the possible consolidation of Taylorsville Elementary School with other schools in the county.

School Board Chairman Caryn Brzykcy stated that she wanted the report distributed to all members at the exact same time, so everyone would have the information when needed.

The meeting was videotaped and can be watched on YouTube at this link: https://youtu.be/qjGSUIXqjnk

Brzykcy said the school system received the report on February 16. With the required 48 hour notice to hold a called meeting, Wednesday was the earliest date she felt was possible to hold the special meeting.

She read a summary from the report, which recommended some type of consolidation of Alexander County’s elementary schools “to obtain enrollment balance,” the report said.

The full report can be read at the school system’s website at this link: http://www.alexander.k12.nc.us/Page/5032

What follows is an excerpt of the DPI survey:

With current excess facility capacity indicated to be 614 students, School Planning has developed three optional recommendations for consideration. Based on observations made at each school as to the facility and teaching spaces, School Planning respectfully recommends the following:

 

Option 1 Recommendation

Close Sugar Loaf Elementary School and redistribute the students to other schools. This recommendation was influenced by the overall facility condition and its eaching spaces, and the age of the existing school. There are strong concerns about fire safety in the original building; structural foundations and column support deterioration in the gym; multiple electrical services to the building; an on-site sewage treatment system; poor condition of the boiler; inadequate fresh air into the HVAC system; and through wall non-ducted HVAC units which are noisy and lack sufficient fresh air supply to classrooms.
If Option 2 Recommendation is accepted in lieu of closing Sugar Loaf, the continued use of Sugar Loaf Elementary School would require major renovations or replacement in order to continue to be a suitable school facility. Renovations would involve major construction, may not resolve some of the observed concerns we have addressed, and could cost as much as a replacement facility.
Reviewing the Alexander County Facilities Study prepared by Pinnacle Architecture and the survey that is defined in this report, it is School Planning’s opinion that, in general, the following areas of renovation/repair/replacement would be needed:
• Remove and replace the existing original classroom building. The existing building has questionable structure, corridors that provide no fire protection (1 hour is required), exposed piping in hallways, insufficient fresh air in classroom spaces, low ceilings and poor lighting, and roofing and insulation replacement.
• Some older toilets have not been renovated to meet handicap accessibility requirements.
• Add additional classrooms to accommodate the increased enrollment in this school.
• Remove and replace the cafeteria and kitchen.
• Remove and replace the gymnasium with multi-purpose gym.
• Replace the mechanical system boiler which may involve additional HVAC work to bring the complete system to current energy code. Design system to provide fresh air in classrooms.
• Study the electrical services to provide one central service to the building. Multiple services can be hazardous to electrical workmen and generally is not permitted in new buildings.
• Remove abandoned or little used buildings not part of school from the site.
• Remove wood steps and ramps in favor of permanent steps and ramps to lower playground areas.

 

Option 2 Recommendation

Close Taylorsville Elementary School and redistribute students to other schools. This recommendation was primarily influenced by the age of the facility. However, the building is in good condition considering its age and has the greatest potential for economical renovation. It does have public water and sewer service which is a plus. There are through-wall non-ducted HVAC units which prove to be noisy and may not introduce sufficient fresh air supply to the classrooms. The existing gymnasium appears to be sound construction and is a better candidate for renovation than replacement.

If Option 1 Recommendation is accepted in lieu of closing Taylorsville Elementary, the continued use of Taylorsville Elementary School would be a practical candidate for consolidation. Overall, the building is in sound condition. Reviewing the Alexander County Facilities Study prepared by Pinnacle Architecture and the survey that is defined in this report, it is School Planning’s opinion that, in general, the following areas of renovation/repair/replacement would be needed:

• Where the through-wall-HVAC units occur, there would need to be a means to induce fresh air into the classrooms as the units do not provide this.
• Renovate the existing gymnasium incorporating a platform/stage. This may or may not require the replacement of the floor as outlined in the 2014 report. This should be revisited as it may only be required to refinish the floor. For the gymnasium, implement additional measures to provide handicap access and improve the sense of exterior entry and streetscape for the gymnasium.
• Renovate older existing toilets to provide handicap accessibility as some have not been renovated.
• Add additional classrooms to accommodate the increased enrollment in this school.

Option 3 Recommendation

Construct a new 500 student elementary school on a new site or an existing school site. If a new site is chosen, it should have public water and sewer service. If constructed on an existing school site, it is recommended that it be at the Taylorsville Elementary School because of availability of public water and sewer, and the overall access to playgrounds and quiet public streets. It may be possible with careful design to keep the existing school in operation while the new school would be constructed. After new school completion, the existing school would be removed. In this option, Sugar Loaf Elementary School would be abandoned.

One advantage of this proposal is that this school would provide for the latest in energy savings and facility operation and quality teaching spaces and support facilities.”

The Alexander County Board of Education did not take action on the NCDPI survey report at the February 22 meeting. Alexander’s Board may choose to follow some or none of the recommendations in the report.

“I want to let everybody know, this study is just that, a study. It is not a directive and it is not an imperative,” Brzykcy told the February 22 gathering.

According the Board of Education’s website, Since the 2011-2012 school year, the total school system enrollment has declined steadily from 5,454 to 5,009 at the beginning of this school year.  Based on the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) projections the total enrollment is projected to decrease to 4,529 students by the 2020-2021 school year.   Also based on the 2016 DPI Facilities Need Survey, our schools’ current capacity is for an additional 1,977 students, leaving no school in our district operating at full capacity.

The Times will continue to closely follow this developing story.

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