Millions More

The Warren County School District board of directors on Monday got a glimpse into what a renovated Warren Area High School might look like.

It isn’t going to come cheap.

The board was presented with a set of educational specifications for WAHS by Jon Thomas of Thomas and Williamson Program Management from Pittsburgh.

A committee has met several times over several months in an attempt to hammer out key characteristics of an updated school.

Thomas got to share that information with the board.

“This is the fun part,” he said, indicating that four or five meetings were held of the entire committee with other smaller meetings contributing to the process. “The goal was to get as much information as we could from your people (and make) it into a plan that was meaningful for you.”

Thomas said that his assessment of WAHS is that the district has “a slightly underutilized facility on the whole. There were some movement of spaces within the various departments,” which were intended to be kept together in the schematic.

That means with the discontinuation of the German program, world languages will need less space. On science, he said that the district is “using your science spaces a little too much.” The analysis revealed that math needs less space. However, for special education, Thomas said they “found we needed to add some more space.” The ceramics room will also be enlarged.

He explained that developing a schematic that supports the education program “was a fairly large portion of the study, looking at what the facility was when it was built and how we can transform it into a modern facility.”

“We don’t really need to built extra capacity on the building,” he said, citing slowly declining enrollment.

There will be some new construction, though.

Thomas explained that the main entrance to the school will be pushed out “to make an identifiable entrance” as well as some work in the front plaza to “identify different grouping areas” and the schematic includes a “capture vestibule” that will “screen visitors as they coming in.” He said the plan also called for widening “the main corridor to provide better circulation.”

A student proposal also made it into the designs a corridor across the back of the main U-shaped corridor allowing for better circulation, as well.

“It’s a given that you have to change out your exterior wall,” he added. “The system that is there is thermally inefficient. It doesn’t look good (and) costs you a lot of money.”

From an infrastructure perspective, Thomas said one boiler would be kept and two would be replaced. However, including a large asbestos abatement project and sizable electric and plumbing, including all the mains and branches, infrastructure upgrades are inevitable.

The design also includes an effort to “improve the day lighting in the facility” and “helps utilize the court yards.”

Thomas also highlighted the library and the plan’s intent to “move it to the heart of the school. We’re seeing this off the main artery of the school.” His proposal is “not like the libraries of the past. You see right though the library, providing one large, collaborative area.”

An elevator was also proposed on the outside of the building to provide access to the second-level seating in the gymnasium.

“We’re coming up with something we think works,” he added. “(The) goal would be to hand it over to an architect and say, ‘Here, do something better with this.’ This is something your architect will use as a guide for developing a schematic.”

What will it cost?

Thomas said that a renovation of the existing facility with “no programmatic changes” came in at $19.6 million. “This is just bricks and mortar. It does not consider educational needs.”

Considering educational needs drives the price up significantly.

Up to $23.1 million, to be exact.

Thomas said that the estimates were “worked… down to a budget number that is in your budget as we understand it.”

“It’s hard to justify doing a bricks and mortar renovation,” he added.

Board Vice President Donna Zariczny asked whether there would be any improvements in the auditorium.

Thomas said that the plan adds light fixtures and “a little bit of lighting on the stage now.” He said he was unsure whether a new sound system was included. “I think we took that out,” he said. “We had that in at one time.”

Another item they looked at was an auxiliary gym but he said there was “no good location for it.”

Board member Paul Mangione asked about the status of the school while under construction. “We did procure two portable classrooms,” Director of Buildings and Grounds Services Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht said. Two more are also available at Eisenhower beginning in October, he said. Kennerknecht also said that they will be able to develop six classrooms in the auditorium.

Thomas laid out a timeline for the project.

If an architecture can be acquired in September, Thomas estimated six months of design work with the goal of going out for bids in April. “Bidding in April is usually key,” he added, because contractors who do school work try to get their work booked in April for the season. He estimated that construction could begin in June 2015 with final completion estimated in August 2016.

The board approved the educational specifications unanimously.