Estimating cost: DISD looks at renovations, construction at DHS

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, January 26, 2019
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Decatur ISD trustees Monday asked for its architect and builder to bring back cost estimates for renovations and a classroom addition at Decatur High School at its meeting March 4.

Trustees were presented preliminary plans for the 12-classroom addition that were originally discussed Dec. 10 by the district’s architect, George DeJohn of Claycomb. High School Principal Chris Mogan also presented plans to make a series of renovations on all three stories of the building, including removing multiple inner walls and replacing them with accordion partitions to create flexible classrooms.

“We’re really excited about moving forward,” said Decatur ISD Superintendent Judi Whitis. “We can really benefit from the combination of new construction and renovation.”

Whitis added that the plans discussed Monday will also allow the school to maximize the current space on the campus.

Trustee Charlie Tibbels asked Mogan how much time the renovations and additions would buy the district in terms of space before having to launch another project to add capacity.

“It gains us time. Does it gain us five to six years? That’s shaky,” Mogan said. “It does gain us time. We are squeezing every ounce of instructional space that we can; even more so than I thought.”

Mogan said the renovations would gain capacity for 30 to 60 students. The campus would gain another 200 spots with the addition.

“My concern is the same as I had the other day. Are we spending that kind of money for a short-term fix?,” Tibbels asked. “That’s something that I will have to consider when we vote.”

Tibbels moved the motion to have Claycomb and construction manager at-risk Steele and Freeman gather the cost estimates.

The district has $5.986 million earmarked in its reserves for construction. Roughly $1.5 million of the current $7.396 million in the construction fund has been allocated for other purchases and projects.

The proposed three-story classroom addition would be on the east end of the current classroom wing. The 12-unit addition would essentially be 10 classrooms because two spaces will be science labs. Mogan said at December’s workshop that new space will be flexible classrooms that can be used for a variety of subjects, including the school’s burgeoning career and technology program.

At that same meeting in December, DeJohn gave a rough estimate of $3 million for the construction of the addition with another 20 percent on top for professional fees and furniture. The district has already paid $97,836 in architect fees for the original plans for a classroom addition that was put on hold in June.

Mogan came back to the board Monday to present proposed renovations inside the high school. The bulk of the suggested renovations were on the second and third levels.

On the second level, it was recommended to remove interior permanent walls between some English and social studies classrooms and replace them with retractable walls. Mogan said the renovation would allow teachers to have their own space, but also give a space where they could co-teach or collaborate on lessons.

“If social studies or English teachers wanted to teach together, or if we wanted if for dual credit, we would have a lot of opportunities across these spaces,” Mogan said.

“Teachers have expressed a desire to co-teach and teach a lesson with 50 to 60 kids, so they can learn from each other and students get exposed to other teachers. That’s a common instructional practice nowadays. This would allow that opportunity to occur.”

Also on the second floor, it was proposed to reconfigure the current yearbook and journalism classroom and renovating the Mac Shack into a larger classroom. An additional office would be split off the second floor teacher lounge.

On the third floor, the current ISS/Learning Center would be renovated into a health science lab. A full science lab would be created out of the read/write suite and a neighboring classroom.

It was also proposed to turn restrooms outside the auxiliary gym into dressing rooms for officials, who currently use coaches offices. The neighboring unused concessions stand would be converted into a family restroom. Trustees expressed some concern about incurring the cost for the officials dressing room.

“It seems awful expensive for that particular purpose,” said trustee Wade Watson. “It seems like a lot of modifications for that one particular use.”

A representative from Steele and Freeman said the renovations projects could be completed over the summer. His one concern was completing the officials dressing room with the plumbing work.

DeJohn said his firm will be working to get the estimates by March 4 to make sure there are no surprises before moving on with the next step. He briefly detailed a time line.

“All the renovations stuff, we just started looking at in the past week,” DeJohn said. “We’re hoping to issue drawings in six to eight weeks, which puts us into the middle of March and let it bid in April. Then we could start permitting process and ordering materials, so [Steele and Freeman] could start renovations this summer. If they couldn’t do the renovations this summer, the alternative is wait until the next summer. But it gives them a two-and -a-half month window.”

School Board President Cheri Boyd expressed gratitude for the administration’s proposals.

“They have worked hard coming up with plans and put in a lot of hard work,” Boyd said. “We appreciate all the hard work.

“We would love to make it all work if we have that much in the budget. But it’ll depend on budget and the priority of student and teacher needs.”

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