Limited to $55 million and with a mission to accommodate increasing student enrollments — but with no idea of their source or trajectory–the school system this summer put Hoar Program Management in charge of assembling an expansion plan for its five school buildings. Tonight HPM presented that plan, merging demographics gathered earlier this year from Cooperative Strategies with design services from Goodwyn Mills Cawood. The result is a conservative proposal to add classrooms to each of the five schools as a “significant” but limited bubble of large classes in grades 3-6 makes its way through the system. The high school is estimated to hit 1,400+ in the next decade, and tonight’s plans call for focusing its investment there.
Schools superintendent Bill Cleveland ended continued speculation on the fate of the Valley Avenue property in his opening remarks. He said there would be no grade realignments or switching the high school and middle school locations. All schools would remain in their current locations, as hinted a few weeks earlier, although Edgewood Elementary would need to be completely replaced in 13-20 years, he said. The Valley Avenue property would therefore provide the “flex space” to house students when the time came; the board will be cleaning up the vacant property and resuming plans for a 200 meter track, he said.
The projected maximum enrollment increase for Hall-Kent was revised upward to 700 from this summer’s estimate. There are approximately 650 students enrolled this year.
Cleveland repeatedly thanked the council members in attendance for “gifting” the $55 million. The school was allotted half the proceeds of a $110 million bond issue a year ago, to be paid by a new penny sales tax. The remainder will be spent on ballpark renovations, a west Homewood pool relocation, and a new police complex in west Homewood.
Criteria for building plans
HPM’s Greg Ellis said plans had to achieve top goal of relieving crowding, but meet criteria, such as improving quality of space, traffic flow, accessibility including ADA compliance, safety, and sustainability. “Not over building, not under building, or adding maintenance expenses that are not sustainable,” he said.
Using those guides, he and Gary Owen, architect with GMS, outlined the following plans:
All elementary schools would have added security vestibules, now routinely a part of new school buildings, which prohibit free access into the school unless a person is buzzed in.
Hall Kent Elementary– Six new classrooms on a two-story addition on the street side of the rear field; general upgrades to interior finishes.
Edgewood Elementary – Four additional classrooms; additional toilets; cafeteria seating expansion into the theater space, adding 100 seats; roof and electrical upgrades.
Shades Cahaba Elementary – Three additional classrooms created by “repurposing” the auditorium; expanding dining capacity and reducing time it takes to serve lunch; electrical upgrades and new interior finishes.
Homewood Middle School – Addition of six classroom, two per each floor; Add two counselor offices by reworking teacher workrooms; move choral room to the current wrestling room; expand the band room into the choral room; move wrestling and cheering (?) to a new multipurpose space added on to the gym.
Homewood High School – The major additions would include three pavilions across the north face of the building, for fine arts, academics, and athletics. The interior renovations would be comprehensive, bringing in more natural light, widening corridors, expanding the dining area, adding spaces for collaborative work, and turning the media center into a more multipurpose learning environment furnished with lots of technology and whiteboards, etc.
The fine arts pavilion would include a new dance studio, band room and theater, while the cafeteria would be expanded into the current theater.
Traffic reconfigured: On the exterior, GMC plans to create two distinct traffic loops for carpools and student parking. Under the plan, carpools could only enter and exit from Lakeshore and have no access to student parking lots. Students drivers would enter and exit parking areas from South Lakeshore. The separate loops would eliminate traffic entering from Lakeshore driving up the steep and sometimes slippery drive to the parking area. The change would also eliminate the unsafe drop-off lane along the south side of the building, where traffic crosses multiple pedestrian crosswalks. Plans to add an additional 60 additional parallel parking spaces will help with parking, but probably not open parking to sophomores, Owen said.
Stadium repairs and renovations – Repairs to the stadium and track are part of the planned high school renovations.
Timeline, questions and further information:
The program manager proposed a timeline beginning next month with City Council approval of the plan, followed by a 9-12 week bid period for each separate school construction projects. The board would choose the professional services. Construction would be finished in Aug. 2019 for the high school, Jan. 2019 for the middle school, and September 2019 for the elementary schools. The stadium and track could be completed by next summer.
After answering questions about different ways of relieving traffic flow, through more pedestrian and bike access to staggered starting or dismissal times, the presentation ended about 7:45.
The entire presentation will be available Monday afternoon on the Homewood City Schools website.