School projects make headway
Jeremy Nash
Now that a dispute with Knoxville-based architects Weeks, Ambrose & McDonald is settled, Loudon County Board of Education members can focus on completing the Loudon County Technology Center roof and renovations at Loudon High and Highland Park Elementary schools.
Repairs on the LCTC roof are underway, and Director of Schools Jason Vance said he anticipated work could be finished by the spring.
Vance said the project, which started toward the end of October, has actually come along quicker than anticipated, as officials “initially thought it might carry on through the duration of the year.”
“It’ll be a blessing to have that thing taken care of,” Vance said. “That way we can worry about business inside of it as compared to water intrusion on top.”
During a Thursday BOE workshop, Loudon County Schools career and technical education coordinator Tom Hankinson said the total project was about 20 percent complete.
Knoxville-based Henley Roofing Company was awarded the bid for $619,430, Cope Associates representative Cayce Smith said in an email correspondence, noting the project was on schedule for completion in May.
“I don’t have any concern about the roof right now,” Scott Newman, BOE chairman, said. “I’m sure that Cope’s going to stay on top of what’s going on up there, and I really don’t understand how they laid all that stuff. But I don’t have any concerns. We’re just barely into it. With all the heavy rains right now, you know you’re going to have leaks.”

Loudon High strides

During next Thursday’s BOE meeting, board members will vote on a contract with Evans-Ailey Construction for work at Loudon High School. The Clinton-based company was the lowest bidder at about $5.9 million, and work would take an estimated 400 days to complete. Vance said he has been told the project could still be completed within a year.
“I believe we’ll be able to break ground sometime toward the end of this month or the beginning of January, and I anticipate that that’ll take about a calendar year,” Vance said. “So I would anticipate that we would be able to start classes in the new wing sometime in January 2017.”
Newman said the board will consider adding a clerk to keep up with the progress at LHS and ensure the construction company follows the fire marshal’s rules and keeps the facility up to code.
“Well, what we’d have to do is first come up with a job description on what we want them for and what qualifications we’re going to think they need,” Newman said. “Then we’re going to have come up with what we’re going to pay them. I guess the biggest thing is we’re going to decide if we really need one, or if we need to let Jason and Mike (Garren, assistant director of schools) do what they did on these last few projects we’ve had, which they’ve done a good job. We don’t have any problems with our new buildings. I think they’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves. It just depends on what the board wants to do.”
Newman said there wasn’t a rush to bring a clerk on board.
“I would think we’d need to have that position — if we’re going to have it — within the next couple months,” Newman said. “So when they start breaking ground they can be there when they start. I don’t think it’s really that urgent that we do it this month, but I think we’ll need to sit back and look before we spend a bunch of money we shouldn’t.”
In a previous interview, Smith said the main addition to LHS will be about 33,340 square feet, and the dining room area will be 3,368 square feet. Drawings presented at a BOE workshop earlier this year showed plans to build 12 classrooms, two additional science labs, a new band room, additional cafeteria space and a secure entryway in front leading to the new office.
“We’ve needed to upgrade that for some time,” Gary Ubben, school board member, said. “We needed additional space in it as well, and adding those science labs and other things, with modern, up-to-date equipment will help that facility tremendously.”
Newman said the new wing would include “one of the greatest, best science labs around.”
“It’s going to be (able to) get them out of the portables. We still have kids in portables.” Newman said. “We’ll expand our cafeteria, and so that’s going to make it easier for lunch. It’s to the point where we’re overcrowded.”
The new wing will create greater safety for students who currently cross Highway 11 to get to the building, he said.
“We’re going to build a road that gets those kids off of Highway 11,” Newman said. “It comes down to there through the — where the grass is now, but it gets the kids for pickup for bus and car pickup. There’s really an issue there with the way the kids are dropped off, and some kids cross Highway 11 there. We’re very fortunate we haven’t had a kid hit in the last few years. But it’s dangerous right there.”

Highland Park a focus

Renovations at Highland Park Elementary School can now be considered after the school board approved a settlement of $27,000 to Weeks, Ambrose & McDonald last month. The architect firm initially made claims of being owed more than $53,000 for previous work.
“It’s just a relief,” Vance said. “Just to be honest, I hate to be under any type of litigation, and so really when you can just be about the business of doing what’s right by kids and supporting them and what makes common sense, it’ll be good for us to move forward.”
Vance said the next step will be to offer Cope Associates a contract over the next “few weeks,” which will then be submitted to legal counsel for review. Vance said the contract will likely be voted on in January.
“So after we get the contract from the architect, then we will ask them to come in and do some schematic designing to make sure we agree with the concepts and all that sort of thing,” Vance said. “Once we approve that, we’ll have them send it off to the fire marshal and then once they get approval from the fire marshal we’ll bid it out. I anticipate all those events will happen probably — it’ll start coming to fruition probably in the spring time, and I would anticipate that we would start breaking ground sometime in the summer.”
The school board has about $9.8 million to complete both the LHS and Highland Park projects.
Plans include to add more classroom space, bring kids in from portables and provide opportunities for “the library, for music, art and facilities that will support normal everyday functions,” Vance said. In addition, a safety feature will be included in the renovation project, he said.
“There it’s just kind of an awkward building in many ways, and we’re not going to add a lot of classroom space but we’re going to try to clean it up, some of the areas that just have not been very functional,” Ubben said. “The cafeteria is probably the big one, but there’ll be other things relative to that as well.”