The latest proposal for renovations to two Blount County high schools would deal with essential current issues, principals told the school board Thursday.

Architects from Michael Brady Inc. last year presented conceptual layouts for what is possible at the 40-year-old facilities, but during a work session yesterday offered a simplified plan.

“The No. 1 issue was campus security, and this addresses that,” said Rob Clark, principal of William Blount High School.

The biggest design change would be building a new entrance for William Blount High School on the side of the main building that faces William Blount Drive, with a new parking area in front.

“I like giving a definite entrance to the school,” Board Chair Debbie Sudhoff said.

In addition, MBI proposes removing the barbed wire at WBHS and using more decorative fencing like that at Prospect Elementary School, said Bill Steverson, a principal with the architecture firm.

Along with the new entrance, the plans would expand the kitchen and commons areas to deal with crowding.

At Heritage High School the renovations would add to the front of the building after removing the unused planetarium.

Plans for both William Blount and HHS would connect the career and technical education buildings to the main buildings.

Updated science labs would be located on the second floor of both high schools, making it easier to deal with utilities to those rooms, explained Barry Brooke, executive vice president with LawlerWood LLC, the company overseeing the renovation project for the board.

“A lot of this construction can happen while school is going on,” Brooke told the board.

He also told the board the plans would address a moisture problem that results from the way William Blount was built in 1979.

The design has low roofs intersecting higher walls, and the walls were built with no separation between the brick and block, and no flashing below to direct water away from the wall.

“You can fix the roof all day long, but that’s not going to fix your moisture intrusion,” Brooke said.

Clark told the board, “Air quality has been an issue for as long as I can remember.”

While William Blount has more issues with the physical shape of the building, at Heritage High School space is a greater issue. “You’ve got a little portable farm back there,” Brooke said of the 10 units at HHS.

The renovations would remove all portable classrooms from both high schools and give every teacher a classroom.

Sudhoff said that she was concerned with a description of the renovation plan as adequate. “I want to make sure this will take care of us for a long period of time, not just five or 10 years,” she said.

While the plan doesn’t add space for enrollment growth, the designs would allow the school district to add classrooms later.

Space for CTE

Growing career and technical education programs at both schools would have more space under the renovations.

At Heritage, the new culinary arts program would have classrooms in the connector between the buildings, and William Blount’s culinary program would receive more space.

Instead of working out of a corner of the automotive lab at WBHS, the STEM program would have its own space for science, technology, engineering and math in both high schools.

The new criminal justice program at both high schools also would have a classroom.

In the high schools’ stadiums, the only new construction would be a raised area for walking in front of the seats. “The big thing we wanted to do was close the track from the public,” Steverson said.

Ramps at the stadiums would make them more accessible for people with disabilities, and the renovations would improve the public restrooms, concessions and locker room areas at both high schools.

Traffic flow

Although the main entrance for William Blount would be moved to the opposite side of the building, school buses would continue to use the side of the building with the awning off County Farm Road.

School board members noted a new signal may be needed for cars exiting the high school for drivers who want to turn left on William Blount Drive from the new entrance.

At HHS, Board Chair Debbie Sudhoff asked Steverson to look at adding a lane out the back of the school campus, so cars turning left and right would be in separate lanes.

“I think that would help tremendously with traffic flow,” she said.

MBI is expected to present further plans for the renovations to the board in February.

The school board has said it wants to review bids for the renovations in late May and take a proposal to the county Budget Committee in June.

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