Tour gives shape to construction projects

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, May 12, 2018
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After perusing plans of possible projects on the campus, Decatur ISD trustees toured the high school Monday night.

The trustees visited vocational and FFA facilities, the Eagle Activity Center and fieldhouse and the fine arts department. The district is working on a contract with construction manager at-risk Steele and Freeman for approximately $5 million of facility improvements on the campus.

The initial scope of the work includes career and technology classroom additions, a bistro in the media center and athletic facility improvements – a weight room, media room and locker room renovations. The money for the projects will come from general fund reserves.

“Physically being here in the space and standing where we’re going to be building helps get the proper perspective,” said School Board President Wade Watson.

Superintendent Judi Whitis agreed.

“It was very helpful to give that perspective with placement and space of facilities,” Whitis said.

Architects from Claycomb Associates in Dallas presented plans for using a portion of the current media center/library to build a bistro and dining area. In the back portion of the current facility, under an overhang, the bistro would be housed with grab-and-go sandwiches, salads and other foods. A variety of drinks would be offered.

Director of Child Nutrition Shelly Laaser said the food prep for the bistro would be handled in the lunchroom.

The district hopes to start construction on the bistro in June and have it completed over the summer. Trustees voted in April to end off-campus lunch for sophomores, juniors and seniors next school year.

The board members were presented preliminary plans for adding career technical education classrooms. Whitis said the district was initially looking to add four classrooms but moved on to adding the CTE facilities. The plans presented Monday included two CTE classrooms on the second and third levels and a flexible classroom on the first floor.

“We’re not doubled up anywhere, and we’re not at maximum capacity and have enough science labs,” Whitis said.

“Our focus is when kids leave us, they have certification or minimal work to complete them to be employable.”

The construction on the classroom addition would take nearly a year with a projected completion date in time for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Trustees also looked over plans to add a weight room and media room to the north side of the Eagle Activity Center. The current weight room at the fieldhouse would be converted into additional locker rooms.

Trustees wanted to investigate improvements to the fine arts facilities – the band hall and choir room. Monies are not currently dedicated to those projects.

Watson pointed out enrollment in the fine art programs is growing.

“It would look really good to spread the love to the fine arts,” said trustee Matt Joiner.

Deputy Superintendent Cindy Tatum said the district could consider maintenance tax notes for renovations that would not add square footage to buildings. The notes and interest would be paid back through the district’s maintenance and operations budget.

“Let’s look at all our options,” Joiner said.

Watson added: “I don’t think it’s being financially irresponsible. At 3 or 3.5 percent interest, I think that’s feasible. I think the taxpayers would rather see us do that than going for a bond. We’re not even having that conversation. We have to start planning and building these things. Our numbers are not going down.”

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