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Watauga School Board Approves $18,000 Architectural Study for Six Elementary Schools on Monday Night

WCSBy Jesse Wood

Jan. 15, 2013. On Monday night, the Watauga County Board of Education approved a contract to be no greater than $18,000 with Blowing Rock firm David R. Jones Architecture to evaluate the building conditions of six elementary schools in the county.

The evaluation excludes Cove Creek and Bethel schools because those are the newest elementary schools to have been built in the county. Also, Mabel Elementary has already received a brand new roof and Cove Creek Elementary is halfway through its roof renovation.

Dennis Ray, the director of maintenance with Watauga County Schools, said the study would be helpful as a baseline document for when his staff begins to rebuild the 10-year Long Range Facility Plan next year.

Jones Architecture, which has worked with the school system in the past, will start immediately and work through the winter. Each school should take two weeks to be evaluated, and Ray noted that the evaluation study is to be completed in late spring – just before planning of next year’s budget.

“With this we will be ale to see what we have, the age of what has been done in recent years and what plans are to be done, which will allow the county to program money,” Ray said. 

The written study will survey and document site facility conditions/constraints, interior and exterior elements of the existing structures to help determine if renovation of the existing schools are feasible, practical and whether those potential renovations would meet any proposed educational needs.

According to a letter from Jones to Supt. David Kafitz, the following study includes:

  • The determination of general condition of the visible elements (windows, floors, walls and ceiling finishes, roofing, flashing, hardware, toilet fixtures, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc.)
  • The determination of the buildings’ adaptability to current building code requirements for health, safety and welfare issues.
  • The determination to see if the spaces required by the current N.C. Public School Facility Guidelines can be provided in the existing facility on the existing site.
  • The scope of work shall include gathering information/data, compiling drawings and floor plans, documenting observations, photos, code search, written report, and printing/binding/distribution of report.
  • The study shall look at the WCS Long Range Facility Plan 2012 – 2022 and evaluate it along with the study observations and conclusions.
  • Provide space profiles for upgrading and replacing each existing school

The evaluation will not include in-depth probable construction costs or in-depth engineering analysis of structural, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. The firm charges $95 per hour for the project architect, $50 per hour for CADD technician and $35 hour for office/clerical work. 

Ray said this study would allow him to rank the conditions of systems of each school for future funding allocations/requests and would be particularly helpful for potential building code issues during future renovations.

“[Jones] will look at the building code. One constant problem I run into when I do a renovation is that I was grandfathered in until I did a renovation and then I have to bring it into compliance,” Ray said.

The board unanimously approved the contract – with only Board Member Barbara Kinsey speaking up:

“It sounds so logical – a no brainer. I think this is what we have to do. Conditions about our buildings are in such varying degrees of disrepair or good repair. It makes a lot of sense.”

Then she added, jokingly to Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque, who was present, “I know, Mr. Geouque, the county commissioners are going to vote a great deal of money for capital improvements. No pressure.”