Danville Board of Education got some sobering news Monday about what construction or renovation plans for district elementary schools may cost.
Susan Hill with Tate, Hill, Jacobs: Architects of Lexington presented findings of a feasibility study on the district’s three elementary schools which included options for both major renovations and building new facilities for Hogsett Elementary, Jennie Rogers Elementary and Toliver Elementary, as well as what it would take to turn one of the schools into a building for a central office and pre-school.
The Local Planning Committee, which has been working on the district’s four-year facility plan, had a proposal on the table that would replace or refashion Toliver and Jennie Rogers and make them the system’s two elementary schools, each accommodating about 450 students. Hogsett would become the new central office space and early learning center.
Hill showed the board figures based on the Kentucky Department of Education requirements for 800 square feet per classroom, which would have to be met for any project. In addition to larger classroom sizes at most schools, major renovations would have to meet Americans with Disabilities Act and code requirements and include new heating, ventilation and air conditioning and electrical systems that meet energy codes.
According to Hill’s projections, the cost of building completely new 60,500-square-foot school structures for 450 students at the current sites of the elementary schools would be about $14 million.
Factoring in demolition, renovation and new additions, as well as “soft costs,” ranging from professional fees to furnishings, the price for refurbishing the existing schools would be about $10.9 million for Hogsett and Jennie Rogers and roughly $13.6 million for Toliver.
“We’ve got less than $11 million worth of bonding capacity and $30 million of major renovations we’d like to undertake,” school board Chairwoman Jean Crowley said. “Now the real work will come, with deciding how we are going to educate our kids and remake some of these buildings with the resources we have.”
The district currently has only about $10.5 million in bonding capacity. Chuck Stallard, director of facilities, pupil personnel and transportation, said there will be considerable debt reduction over the next several years and a major increase in bonding power in 2020.
“Right now we don’t have the bonding capacity, so over the next year, we are going to have to prioritize,” said Superintendent Carmen Coleman. “Realistically, we are going to have to do this in phases.”
One of the concerns for residents and board members has been the fate of Toliver, which the Local Planning Committee had previously considered replacing altogether. Built in 1928, the original portion of the building is the oldest of the local schools, and many in the community have expressed concern about the future of the historical structure as a fixture in its neighborhood.
While she hesitated to offer an opinion on whether to make major changes or start from scratch, Hill did say Toliver is structurally sound, and working within the existing structure would be possible. “It is a completely renovatable building,” Hill said.
Hill said potential challenges of gutting and renovating the building would be the lack of energy efficiency and the continued maintenance of the intricate woodwork outside. She said the state also may frown on funding for a renovation project that is not substantially less than the cost of a new building.
The study also found that of the three elementary schools, Hogsett is actually the least suited to be turned into the administrative and pre-school complex the committee had envisioned. Stallard said the study, which cost about $8,000, was not only to provide options for new or refurbished facilities, but also to complete structural assessments of the buildings constructed during the mid-20th century. He said further study will need to be done on the impact larger enrollments would have on traffic flow.
No timeline has been set, and Stallard said it is a matter of deciding what to do, not when to do it, at this point. No matter what order the projects are taken in, Coleman hopes making sporadic improvements to different parts of each campus can be avoided.
“We don’t want a patchwork,” Coleman said. “We want all new learning spaces.”
The board is tentatively scheduled to meet again 6-8 p.m. April 30 when it will discuss further changes to the facility plan. A required public hearing on the amended plan will happen later this year, and the plan should be complete by June.