Preliminary plan for renovations at high school reviewed
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

July 27, 2005 -- A preliminary plan for additions and renovations to Sulphur Springs High School was presented to Sulphur Springs Independent School District board members Monday night.

Where the money will come from, however, is another issue altogether.

The plan calls for the renovation of two science labs and the construction of six new ones, as well as the expansion of the existing band hall to create a fine arts area that would serve multiple functions.

The high school project also entails correcting structural, foundation and plumbing difficulties at the facility.

SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton said the foundation, structural and plumbing issues at the high school threaten the integrity of the building.

"The longer we wait, the more it will cost," Bolton said.

The preliminary plan presented by Claycomb & Associates calls for renovating two of the current science labs and constructing six new ones. Two of the three existing labs would be cut in half and extended, while six new proposed labs would be a bit smaller and "the principal thought the smaller ones could be used for a myriad of classes."

The plan was formulated based on input from interviews between Claycomb and high school science teachers and the principal.

Renovations to the science labs are needed to meet accreditation standards and educational needs, Bolton said.

"We are not up to accreditation standards on the science labs we have," she said. "On the TAKS test, science is one of our low areas. We must have the labs."

Claycomb representatives also suggested expanding the current band hall. The current facility would be renovated and turned into a fine arts area, which in turn could free up other areas and classrooms used for fine arts programs.

The preliminary plans for the band hall include theater, drama and art rooms, a new choir area and a new band area. There are also provisions for a library, practice areas, storage areas and offices, including an office for campus security officers.

District officials are still gathering information on project costs and how to pay for it. The construction and renovations would likely require a bond election to fund, but that all depends on what decisions are made by the Texas Legislature regarding school finance reform and taxes.

The plan, however, is tentative, and will likely feature adjustments tailored to accommodate the needs of choir, fine arts, science and other departments based on information to be obtained from teachers in those subjects before a final recommendation is presented to the board. Also, some rooms designated for other purposes could be utilized for offices, storage areas and conference rooms as needed.

"This is just preliminary," Larry Claycomb said.

School officials will meet next week with principals and administrators from all district campuses to share information regarding the plan and to gather their input, as well as with the district facilities assessment committee, according to Bolton.

Responding to queries from board member Jack Chubb, officials assured trustees that tests at the high school to determine the cause and extent of plumbing, structural and foundation damage, and costs associated with correcting those issues, will be the top priority. Claycomb assured Judy Gillem that a different foundation could be included in the design to prevent leaking problems in the future.

"The high school foundation and problems must be addressed," Bolton said. "We will continue assessments on foundation, plumbing and structural issues, as well as asbestos in the building."

Another representative from the architectural firm reminded school officials that the earliest date a bond election could be held is October. The board would need to call for a bond election between Aug. 15 and Aug. 18 in order to meet the requirement that an election be called 62 days in advance.

"I believe we could have a successful campaign," the representative told the board. "The needs are so clear here."

"I feel there is support here for this," Bolton said. "We have had very positive comments about it."

Bolton also noted that there is still a need for more classrooms for elementary students in the district, but the high school takes top priority.

"We know we need elementary and middle school classrooms and continue to get input from them as to the best direction to go," she said. "We have the same space problems [as in the past] and realize that, but at this point we have no location to build a building and need to continue working on what kind of elementary building and [for] what students. But because of the critical issues at high school, it will be addressed first."

Bolton said that Dan Almon of Southwest Securities will be consulted in the coming weeks regarding potential costs and how a bond and reorganization of funding could be conducted based on current rates.

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