Several school projects underway

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Schools may be out for summer, but several continue to bustle with activity in Isle of Wight County — one of them with chickens.

The division launched multiple facility renovations this summer, including a repaving of the parking lot at Hardy Elementary School and a building-wide repainting at Carrollton Elementary, which is also having pipes and pipe connections replaced in its sprinkler system after it was cited for a violation this past year due to leaks.

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Windsor High School is currently undergoing the most substantial overhaul, as the division moves to carve out a new cosmetology lab and collaboration space as well as build a greenhouse before the new school year begins. The work is part of a new education plan and high school redesign unveiled by the division earlier this year, which calls for an influx of new Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses for students.

The construction at Windsor High is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1, according to Director of Support Services Marty Callender. Classes are scheduled to begin Sept. 5. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The work is being done by A.R. Chesson Construction, which was awarded the contract this past spring for $687,232.

The new collaboration area planned for the high school will go in what was once a second cafeteria room in the building, according to division spokesperson Lynn Briggs.

The school will now have one room to serve as its cafeteria, which was estimated would be sufficient space for students, according to Briggs.

Both Windsor and Smithfield high schools will have new cafeteria furniture for the upcoming school year as well, Callender said.

The collaboration area at Windsor will be equipped with seating space, portable tables and computer monitors for students to utilize for group projects.

The cosmetology lab, to be situated in what was formerly the high school’s Makerspace lab, will have 20 different stations, including ones for hairstyling, shampooing, manicures and pedicures, with room for roughly 20 students at a time, according to Callender.

Callender and Briggs were unsure of exactly where the school’s Makerspace lab would be relocated.

Chesson knocked down a back wall to expand the slated cosmetology lab and open up several smaller rooms that will be used as locker rooms and storage space, according to Callender.

As for the greenhouse planned for the high school, it’s construction has not yet begun. The 30-foot by 60-foot structure will go behind the main school building over what is now an outdoor basketball court. It’s still on track to be completed by Chesson by Sept. 1, Callender said.

A flock of chickens were another recent addition to the high school, though their stay was brief. A coop built by students this past year at the high school was relocated to Windsor Elementary School this past week, along with its resident chickens. Land next to Windsor Elementary will be used as a working farm this upcoming year for agricultural studies at Windsor High.

The division recently hired Daniel Judkins as a full-time manager at the farm, which is also slated to have some goats this year, the goat barns also built by students, according to Briggs.

“We have our students creating a lot of the structures that we will be using,” said Briggs.

The renovations at Windsor are being funded by a $7.9 million loan taken out by Isle of Wight County, the debt service of which will be paid back over a 13-year period with money previously used to send students to the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology for CTE courses. The division had previously been budgeting $952,000 annually for 220 student slots at Pruden, a relationship the division ended this year, citing low student enrollment at the center, which is in Suffolk.

The county will pay $715,829 in yearly debt service to provide in-house CTE equipment and facilities at its two high schools. The division will keep the overage from the former Pruden funds in its budget to help pay for the new CTE instructors.

The furniture in the high school will be paid for using $142,000 from a furniture fund in next year’s budget, Thornton said at a specially called School Board meeting May 31.

Smithfield Foods announced a donation of $3 million to Smithfield High School in February as part of a “Legacy Project,” which will fund a new JROTC Fieldhouse, multi-use pavilion and Makerspace lab.

The meat processing company has an MOU with the division to ensure the donation is used in the way the company intended it, according to Briggs. The division will give Foods progress reports as the projects move forward, Briggs said.

Those projects, along with a building and trades building at Windsor High, are scheduled to wrap up by Jan. 1, 2018, Callender said, adding that they went out to bid to contractors about two weeks ago.

A pre-construction meeting was held this past Wednesday and the deadline for submissions is Aug. 1.

The projects could end up being packaged together and done by the same contractor, or have a few different contractors perform the work, depending on bids and what is deemed most efficient, according to Callender.

“We are flexible,” said Callender. “We cannot be rigid at this point. We’ve got a deadline we’re committed to.”

The division has been working with RRMM Architects of Chesapeake to design the new facilities.

“We’re starting to crawl right now,” said Callender of the overall CTE-related projects slated for the schools. “In three and a half, four years, we’ll get some traction and get this stuff established. It’s going to look very nice.”  {/mprestriction}