The need for handicap-accessible and additional gymnasium facilities continues to be at the top of the priority list for leaders and community members in Elkin City Schools. An update on facility priorities based on the 2014 William Powell facility evaluation and research by Elkin JROTC instructor Maj. Roy Ferguson were presented during last week’s school board meeting.
The Powell evaluation divided the school system’s needs into two categories — establishing a life cycle and yearly maintenance capital, and prioritizing the critical renovations and replacements into phases. The re-roofing project at Elkin Elementary School, which was part of that yearly maintenance, has been addressed, reported Superintendent Dr. Myra Cox and John Altemueller, school maintenance director.
The phases of critical needs were prioritized by Powell as first, the high school gym renovation; second, addressing HVAC, restrooms, lighting, fire alarm and phone/intercom at Elkin Elementary; third, a more secure entry for Elkin Middle; fourth, handicap accessibility for the auditorium at the high school; and fifth, construction of a second gym.
Since the Powell study was done, several projects already have been addressed, although not necessarily in the order of the prioritized phases, reported Cox. LED lighting has been installed in Elkin Elementary’s gym, cafeteria and kitchen, media center and six original classrooms; all of Elkin Middle; and Elkin High’s auditorium lobby and gym floor and gym lobby levels.
Other projects completed include the replacement of a 1973 dishwasher in the kitchen at Elkin Elementary and the roof at the school; the roof at Elkin Middle School and part of the HVAC system upgrade with the completion expected this summer; replacement of the right side air handler and controls and a new stage floor in the high school auditorium and roof replacements on the school’s gym entrance and stairwell; and roof replacement on the upper building at the Central Office.
Several projects are scheduled for 2017, Cox said. Those include at the elementary school, LED lighting for the remaining 10 original classrooms and replacing the phone system; at the high school, adding a stage lift in the auditorium for handicap-accessibility; and at the Central Office, upgrading the lighting to LED and replacing the ceiling in the board room and adding duct work.
Altemueller said the stage lift cost came in higher than the original estimates for the project, but the dishwasher at the elementary school came in under estimates. He said he hopes the school system can request from the county commissioners to redirect the leftover funding for the dishwasher to the stage lift.
Cox said the school board will need to decide how to prioritize the remaining facility projects. “The next steps will be to continue requesting funding for yearly maintenance projects, review the critical renovations and to request funds for the completion of capital projects,” she said. “Renovations and construction are the next steps.”
Board member Frank Beals said he feels the need for a second gym should be addressed, and suggested discussing the facility needs at the board’s retreat in March.
Altemueller also noted that Elkin Elementary is “due for major life cycle renovations.”
“A lot of those original bathrooms are too small and not geared toward handicap like they should be, the HVAC is 25 to 30 years old and the controls are 20 years old and you know how behind in computer years that is,” he reminded the board.
JROTC instructor Ferguson, who recently has begun coaching as well, addressed the board during the public comments, making a presentation on what he called the “3-1 Disadvantage.”
“Each high school in Surry and Wilkes counties has two gymnasiums, … and the middle schools have their own gyms,” Ferguson said, of all the schools expect Elkin. This is where why he titled the presentation the “3-1 Disadvantage.”
When he started working with Elkin’s basketball team, he started visiting a lot of high schools in the region, but he said it isn’t only the basketball teams who need additional gyms.
“I don’t like to be at a disadvantage, and I wanted to bring it up and see what God would do in all this,” Ferguson said.
In Elkin City Schools, there is one gym between the middle and high schools, and the middle school also utilizes the gym at the Elkin Recreation Center for practices. Ferguson said that one gym is used by the seventh- and eighth-grade volleyball teams for practices and games, the seventh- and eighth-grade girls and boys basketball teams, seventh- and eighth-grade wrestling, junior varsity and varsity volleyball, JV and varsity boys and girls basketball, high school wrestling, fencing, cheerleading practice, and by other outdoor teams like baseball when the weather is bad.
To ensure students are out of the gym by 9:30 p.m., Ferguson said practices have to be shortened to 45 minutes per team, while other schools are getting in two hours of uninterrupted practice. “The students are suffering because we have one gym,” he said. “About 600 students share one gym.”
It also is an issue during the school day for physical education classes. When it rains, there is only one place for the students in the middle and high school PE classes to go – the gym, and Elkin City Schools has a policy to separate middle and high school students, so it makes coordination complicated, Ferguson said.
Also, visiting teams must share locker rooms.
“I know you all agree with this,” Ferguson said to the board. “I’ve talked to students, and we have a lot not participating, because they can’t practice right after school because they can’t drive to practice.”
He said having students out so late to get practices in also presents a safety concern and may affect academics. “It is dark and cold, and it puts them at 10 or 10:30 getting ready for a good night’s sleep.
“I love Elkin schools, but I’m embarrassed by our gym. The upper part is fine, but when visitors go down, the locker rooms, latrines or bathrooms and concession area are an eye sore. It is embarrassing for me. I want our kids to have the very best we can give them and handicap accessible.”
As an example of what Ferguson would like to see in a new gym facility, he shared pictures of North Wilkes High School’s new two-story gym facility. It includes chairs for the ball teams to sit in, a curtain to divide the court when needed, a buffered sound system, a business-sponsored light-up score table and electronically retractable bleachers on the gym level. Then downstairs includes four classrooms for health, physical education and JROTC, a large weight room, two locker rooms with individual showers rather than open bay showers, four offices for coaches and teachers to utilize, and it is all handicap accessible. The concession area is on the same level as the gym and has seating, and Ferguson said the storage spaces are unbelievable.
“I know everybody in this room wants this,” Ferguson said. “Our gym was built in 1962, and it is long overdue. Our school and academics are so good, we need to have a good athletic facility, too. I think it is something that is long overdue and we are behind the power curve of other schools.
“I think we need to make this our number one project, and get it funded,” he said.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.