LYNCHBURG, Tenn. – The Tullahoma-based engineering firm of Oliver, Little and Gipson (OLG) gave a 43-minute presentation on a proposed improvement at the Moore County High School campus during January’s Metropolitan Lynchburg Moore County Council meeting, which was held at the high school.
After the meeting County Council members were offered a tour of the campus. A handful of the 40-plus community members who showed up for the meeting stuck around, chatting with school officials, board members and representatives from OLG.
“Our focus is on the education of our students and preparing them to be college and career ready by the time they graduate from Moore County High School,” said Director of Schools Chad Moorehead. “We can do that and be more efficient at that if we make some adjustments to our building that’s about 40 years old.”
OLG has been working with the school board for several months, but this was the first presentation made before the Metro Council.
“The school board has met a number of times this fall trying to put together solutions on how we can improve our schools in order to improve the education of our students,” added Moorehead.
A few council members had questions for the OLG representatives both during and following the presentation, which included a detailed 12-page handout.
“Again you have a 40-year-old building that was built in the early 70s. It’s gone from the end of the 20th century and well into the start of the 21st century with a structure that’s a good structure, but could use some TLC to get some things improved,” said OLG Chief Mechanical Engineer Tim Little.
The artist’s rendering of the proposed improvements were left at the school for students to view during the week and were on display at last Tuesday’s home basketball game against Forrest.
OLG’s proposal included a new gymnasium, significant upgrades to the school’s football complex — which was recently deemed unsafe for use — and major upgrades within the school, including a new cafeteria and much-improved security.
In the gymnasium lobby, people stopped to look over the new designs. Students expressed their excitement over the prospects of having much-improved facility. Many onlookers viewed the new plans with guarded optimism, however, as the proposed project is expected to include a $17.5 million price tag. Some were hopeful, while others were doubtful such a project would ever fetch a “yes” vote from some of the current members of the County Council.
This presentation, however, was just the first step of a process that current school board members believe is long overdue.
Included in the issues and concerns outlined in the presentation at the County Council meeting were: campus security; cafeteria and dining space; overcrowded corridors; accessibility and ADA standards; HVAC control and efficiency; community access; athletic facilities; and outside lighting.
While the fact that the football stadium is currently condemned is a glaring issue — this year’s graduation will have to be held inside the school’s gymnasium — and is one of the more obvious problems on the surface, it’s by far the most challenging issue that school officials and students have to deal with.
Both school officials and engineers said school security is of utmost importance and at the top of the list.
“There’s a single set of doors. You walk in and you’re in the building,” said engineer Allen Stevenson.
The new plans would call for a more secured entrance in the front, along with one in the back that would be available in the morning only during bus drop off and one at the entrance to a new gymnasium, which would allow for the rest of the school to remain secure during afterhours functions.
The school’s 40-year-old cafeteria is a major concern. Trying to serve both middle school and high school students in a timely manner is a difficult chore, especially with tighter constraints on instructional schedules. The engineers and designers proposed relocating the lunch room to what is now the Commons Area in the middle school wing of the campus.
The Commons Area is a little used area that could be redesigned to accommodate a new lunch room. That would alleviate some of the time-constraint issues because it would accommodate more students, as well as help with traffic flow issues in the hallways.
“When the middle school was added the decision was made not to add another dining room and kitchen and save that money and consolidate. But the result of that is that you have a very crowded dining room and an undersized kitchen area,” said Stevenson.
Eliminating the majority of the outside doors/entrances by replacing them with windows; adding a sprinkler system throughout the building; enclosing the current open-air library; and relocating the nursing (HOSA) and electro mechanical classrooms within the school’s structure are additional improvements in the plan.
Once completed, the classrooms and new gymnasium would all be under one roof — a much more modernized roof — and bus flow traffic would be rerouted around the back of the school. OLG proposed building the new gymnasium where the current parking lot is between the gym and football field.
They said by adjusting the traffic flow and eliminating some existing outside structures, no parking spaces would be lost.
And as for the parking and entrances, Little addressed an issue that many don’t face until they’re trying to get into the school after hours in the dark.
“If you’ve all pulled in (the entrance) at nighttime, side lighting is big concern,” said Little. “It’s dark coming in from the highway out there. After you do it a few times it gets little better, but it’s still a hunt. You get it raining at night and it’s real (difficult) to find the right road.”
The total square feet of the building after completion would be roughly 127,550. That includes 40,385 square feet of new construction; 38,304 square feet of structure that requires significant renovation; and 42,698 square feet that would require minor renovation.
—ROBERT HOLMAN, Editor & Publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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