The Jefferson High School Board of Trustees were given three options to address a host of facility issues, with the most expensive being a new school, estimated at $19.2 million for construction alone, according to Jason Davis, principal/partner with SMA Architects.
Other options included additions and renovations of the existing building, estimated between $4.4 to $6 million, depending on the extent of the project, according to Davis.
Those estimates did not include “soft” costs, land or infrastructure, according to Davis.
SMA presented its findings from its recent Building Condition Report to the Trustees at its regular meeting, July 21.
Davis also provided a figure for upgrading the football field and track. He estimated it would
cost about $1.3 million to install a turf field and an all-weather track, which were described in the report as having problems such as mosquitoes, and a poor surface in the case of the track, making hosting larger events difficult or undesirable.
However, one limiting factor for any building addition or expansion is a lack of land, said Davis.
Some of the top concerns gleaned from the building report included the lack of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access, classrooms that are nearing capacity, the need for drama and theater space improvements, or a new location, and a special education area that is lacking on many levels. Another concern was a front office that did not provide a view of who was entering the building, which was described as a security issue.
Davis said the school’s current special education sensory space felt like “a jail space” and the lack of ADA access could expose the school to liability issues.
A sensory space provides special education students with a place to calm and focus themselves, according to Edutopia, part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
ADA access was particularly lacking in the art room, the band room, the wrestling and weight rooms, the lower locker rooms and restrooms. The report also advised the school to get rid of its three modular classrooms and replace them with permanent structures attached to the building for security reasons.
Davis told the Trustees that the current school facility, spread out over 23 acres, is considered small for the number of students enrolled. He recommended 30-33 acres, based on the current enrollment of about 300 students.
SMA Principal/Director Jason Fisher talked about how the educational environment is changing, and today educators are looking for more collaborative, flexible spaces with enough technological opportunities to foster creativity, communication and critical thinking.
The high school was originally built in 1909 and demolished in 1985. Over the years, additions were added as separate structures and filled in to produce the current high school campus.
The current facility lacks the space for these 21st qualities, said Fisher.
The report also suggested the district consider improving upon, or creating a new, drama and theater area since that department competes with athletics over the use of the South Gym.
The Trustees did not take any action on the presentation.
“The facilities committee plans to meet soon. We will also plan to have a discussion session on the next regular Board agenda for August,” said Chairperson Cami Robson in an email.