Board Discusses Bond, RHS Gym – Transylvania County, NC
Last updated 3/27/2021 at 2:41pm
Norris Barger, head of business services and plant operations and head of the School Bond Construction Committee, informed the board that it’s difficult to predict the availability and cost of certain construction materials.
“Each time I meet with you I get a little more worried about pricing and the construction market and the way things are going. At some point it’s going to turn around. I just don’t know what that point is,” said Barger. “Things seem to be settling down in some spots but then they’re being blown out of the water in other spots.”
Barger said he has asked the architects and construction manager at risk for some options in case the school system needs to make some changes in July.
Board member “Kimsey” Jackson asked if the architects have given any indications as to what they might be able to do to trim the costs.
“We’ve been value engineering now for over a year, pulling unneeded costs out,” said Barger. ‘We’ve changed the base bid a bit.”
He said the architects are looking at some areas that would have “the least impact” on the projects, such as furniture and equipment.
“I don’t want to cut something significant out of the buildings that we’ll be missing for the next 40 years,” said Barger.
Barger said the school system and the contractors want the materials onsite so that they do not have to lose time waiting for delivery. As a result, there are “long lead times” on procuring some materials, and the costs of those materials are fluctuating.
“That’s changing so fast, so rapidly and so dramatically it could be different a month from now,” said Barger.
Another factor is approval of the final plans by the North Carolina Department of Insurance. The construction documents will go to the Department of Insurance by March 31. However, Barger said there has been a “bottleneck” at the Department of Insurance due to the pandemic.
“We’re projecting 10 weeks to get comments back,” said Barger. “That’s why we’ve got a mid-July GMP (guaranteed maximum price) date.”
Barger said the notice to proceed would be Aug. 1 based on the current timeline.
Gym Closing Concerns
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Superintendent Jeff McDaris read comments from Rosman High head football coach Dusty Robinson and Josh Galloway, who teaches and coaches at the school. Both expressed concern about closing the newer gym and adjacent weight room during construction at the school.
“Many individuals in our community have invested time and money into creating a wonderful weight room that all of our students, not just athletes, can take pride in. This space is used every period of the day, easily providing needed physical activity, a huge component of lifelong health, to 100-plus students a day. The new additions provide a safe environment that rivals that of many commercial facilities. The flooring and equipment represents a $22,000 investment that was provided by the members of Toxaway Charities to benefit the students of Rosman High and Middle School. This project was a priority and undertaken because of the immediate impact and benefit for our students and our athletes. Now this equipment is scheduled to be unusable for two years due to construction,” wrote Galloway.
“The loss of the gym also presents many disadvantages to our students as athletes,” he wrote. “With the two gyms we are already pressed for scheduling gym time, especially during the winter season where six basketball teams and two wrestling teams must share the space. Eliminating the gym would force early morning and late-night practices that sacrifice time that students should be resting to prepare for the next school day. I have had many athletes that have 30-plus minute drives home, so commuting to and from practice later in the evening means that an athlete may not return home until well after 9:30 at night from practice or have to leave as early as 5 a.m. to be on time for an a.m. practice.”
Robinson expressed similar concerns, adding, “I have serious concerns as to what will happen to this equipment if the weight room is unoccupied for an extended period of time. Currently, we have to run two dehumidifiers daily to prevent rust from excess humidity, and in the warmer months those have to be emptied twice per day. If that room were to be unoccupied, we risk losing the equipment to rust and the floor to buckling due to not being used. There is no feasible temporary storage for such a large amount of equipment, even if it is disassembled.”
“From an athletic standpoint, losing the gym and the weight room would put our sports teams at near-catastrophic competitive disadvantage,” he wrote.
Robinson concluded, “I understand that there are logistics to consider, but losing the weight room and gym for two years would be the worst possible outcome and is, to speak frankly, unacceptable. In education we strive to achieve equity in all aspects for all students. Please help us combat this inequity by finding a solution to this problem.”
In reference to the public comments, board member Marty Griffin said, “We’re going to lose money. No mention was made of how we’re going to host home basketball games.”
Griffin, who is a former coach and athletic director, said, “As a coach, I don’t want to play all of my games on the road. That’s not fair to the kids.”
He also said the booster club would lose half of its revenue due to having no concession stand sales and that ticket sales from basketball games help pay for some non-revenue sports.
“We’re not taking away their ability to play home games. We have another gym at Rosman High they can play home games in. Admittedly, it doesn’t hold as many people, but they have a home gym that seats fans,” said Barger of the older gym on the campus.
“The issue has been about practice primarily because of the loss of the gym,” agreed McDaris. “We have the ability to play home games.”
Griffin said if there were just three basketball teams practicing after school – JV boys and varsity boys and girls – the last team would finish practice between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
“I don’t think any of us are happy about it,” said McDaris.
Both Barger and McDaris said they are working on options to address the gym and weight room issues and plan to present those options at the next board meeting.
McDaris said one of the biggest challenges is phasing in the construction and meeting all safety and insurance guidelines while still providing educational and extracurricular opportunities.
Griffin said he understood the safety concerns, but then asked why this issue had not been brought to the school board earlier.
“This is the first we’ve heard of this. I don’t know how it’s happened or why it’s happened. What bothers me is that I did not hear anything about this until this past Thursday,” said Griffin. “I felt like we were promised that the education process would not be interrupted.”
Board Chair Tawny McCoy said they are going to come up with some options and people need to remember that “we are going to end up with two new and highly renovated facilities, and in order to do that lots of people have had to make some concessions and change some things that they’re doing.”
“We’re looking at a safety factor,” she said. “We can’t risk the safety of our students.”
“I understand that,” said Griffin, who added that they had asked in the past if the construction would affect football and basketball games.
“We’ve been promised that that would not be affected, and now I feel like it’s being affected,” said Griffin.
Griffin asked McCoy and board member Courtney Domokur, who have been in the school Bond Construction Committee meetings, if the issue had been brought up before.
Domokur said they did meet with RHS principal Jason Ormsby about some options a few weeks ago and Ormsby said they were working with other schools on scheduling options.
“I’m not sure where that stands right now,” said Domokur. “That was a couple of weeks ago.”
“We’ve got to keep our eye on the big picture,” said Vice Chair Ron Kiviniemi.
“The process may be painful but I think the end results will be worth some of the pain.”
Kiviniemi said they have asked the Brevard High teachers to make some changes in their method of scheduling and sharing classrooms so they do not have to use portable classrooms, which is going to save money during the construction process.
Jackson said it is too bad that students will not be able to use the newer gym and weight room, but “I think it’s important that we keep kids out of the construction area. That’s a big safety factor.”
Barger said one of the problems is that the power to the new gym is located in the band room and mechanical room area, which are going to be demolished to make way for new construction.
He also presented a schematic showing the gym “pretty well surrounded” by fencing during construction.
He noted that there are strict insurance guidelines regarding construction and exiting buildings near construction.
“Exiting into the construction zone is not exiting properly,” said Barger.
McCoy said she appreciates all the time and work Barger has put into the projects.
“I want it to be right, and I want the kids and the community to have what they deserve, not only at the end, but while we’re doing it, too,” said Barger. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure that happens.”
Good News Report
That brings the number of currently National Board Certified teachers in Transylvania County Schools to 44.
“Along with those 44, we also have quite a few that have advanced degrees and that’s something to be proud of in a school system this size,” said Griffin. “That goes back to how hard working our staff is. I just want to commend all of them.”
•Three Transylvania County Schools students have been accepted into the 2021 North Carolina Governor’s School. Governor’s School is a five-and-a-half-week summer residential program for gifted and talented rising seniors that integrates academic disciplines, the arts and unique courses.
The students and their selected disciplines are Emma Coye of Brevard High in math; Townsend Dierauf of Brevard High in natural science; and Jasmine Grooms of Rosman High in instrumental music (French horn).
•McDaris reported that as of Friday, March 12, nearly 400 school employees – 67 percent of the educational staff – had received their first vaccination for COVID-19.
•During board member comments, Kiviniemi said they all are aware of the racist and hate-filled messages that were left in the community, including the lawn of Brevard High School.
“I think it has been clear that the Transylvania County Board of Education, through our policies, has made it clear that we reject discrimination and racism in any form,” said Kiviniemi. “I believe it is our intention to provide a learning environment that is safe and free of discrimination for all of our staff and students.”
•The last day of school for students is Friday, May 28.
•The next school board meeting will be held Monday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Morris Education Center.