Renovate or Rebuild?
MCS board exploring options for high school
Friday, April 05, 2013 11:00 AM
Outdated equipment and updated technology are forcing the Madison school board to look into options of renovating or rebuilding Madison Consolidated High School.
Over the past few weeks, the board has been talking with architecture firms to provide feasibility studies for the district. The goal is to determine the cost of improving the high school.
All board members agree the high school needs updating. The major question they want answered is whether it would be more cost-effective to remodel the existing school or build a new one.
On Thursday, the board was visited by a representative from BBH Design, a Raleigh, N.C., architecture firm that specializes in schools and health care facilities to discuss the feasibility study.
Four firms have visited Madison to work on similar projects.
At Wednesday's school board meeting, the architecture firms will make presentations to the board on their proposed feasibility studies. Board members said all options are currently on the table.
"We don't want to limit ourselves to just remodeling this building," board president Todd Bass said of the high school. "If the study came back and recommended a complete overhaul, we wouldn't be against that."
The biggest issues with the high school are electrical, technological and plumbing issues. Bass said previous school boards didn't raise taxes to help maintain the schools as needed, and as a result, the schools have been sparingly repaired.
"We put Band-Aids on problems as they pop up," Bass said.
Superintendent Ginger Studebaker-Bolinger said that by 2021, the school district will have paid off all its bonds and will be debt-free, which she said would be a big benefit when it comes to obtaining bonds for a new project.
Bass said the building looks nice on the outside, but underneath all of that, time has caused problems with materials and utilities.
"It's done it's job," Bolinger said of the high school building. "It has been a great building for a long time."
The school needs changes to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most of the bathrooms in the school do not have entrances that are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
"We don't have some of the features that are in newer buildings today. We are not up to code," Bolinger said.
But Bolinger is looking beyond just the next couple of years when it comes to functionality of the school. In the next school year, there will be six "digital days" added to the calendar when students will be able to learn outside the classroom. If that number grows each year, then the school will have to be able to serve the technological needs of the students, she said.
"In 20 years, I think education will look a lot different than it does today," Bolinger said.
Regardless of what route the board takes, board member Carl Glesing believes they have to create something that will be useful even when the technologies and the times change.
"It's important we get something that will serve the community well for the next 30 to 40 years," Glesing said.
"I think with closing the two schools last year, it's going to be really hard to convince the community we need to do this," board member Lee Ann Imel said.
The major obstacle will be gaining public support for this project, regardless of what the board ultimately decides to do, she said.
Given the size of the proposed project, the board would need the public to vote for a referendum to approve spending the money.
To gain public support to pass a referendum, board member Joyce Imel said the community has to know about these changes in education and how an updated school would benefit students.
Board members brought up the idea of consolidation with Southwestern Schools. They are in favor of the idea, but Southwestern officials are not. They remain optimistic that consolidation could happen in the future, so the board wants to be sure the school can meet the needs of a higher number of students.
The model for learning has changed over the years. Bass said a typical learning environment is no longer desks in a row with eyes facing forward; a classroom is now focused on technology and independent studying.
Lisa Cutshall, technology director for the schools, said it was a "nightmare" trying to set up wireless Internet because the building was not designed for that type of technology. The new or renovated school would also have to be able to change as technology continues to change, the board agreed.
Mike Robinson, director of operations for Madison schools, said they hope to provide a balance between functionality for the public and safety for the students.
Other issues Principal Kevin Yancey pointed out to the architecture firm and the board members were a subpar soundsystem in the auditorium and locker rooms that would need almost $2 million in renovations.