New look of LFMS unveiled

Bradley County Board of Education hears updates on construction cost and strategies for funding it

Posted 2/12/16

The designSchematic designs for the proposed new academic building at Lake Forest Middle School have been revealed. Representatives of Lewis Group Architects presented their designs to the …

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New look of LFMS unveiled

Bradley County Board of Education hears updates on construction cost and strategies for funding it


The design

Schematic designs for the proposed new academic building at Lake Forest Middle School have been revealed.
Representatives of Lewis Group Architects presented their designs to the Bradley County Board of Education on Thursday.
Designs for the two-story building feature a brick facade and simple lines, and it is situated to line up with existing buildings on campus.
“We wanted it to have a really clean and classic look while addressing some of the challenges of the site,” said project architect Lauren Bush.
Lake Forest’s current campus consists of multiple pod-style classroom buildings, along with separate buildings for the gym, cafeteria, auditorium and administrative office suite.
Current plans for the school are to combine all the classrooms and offices into one building, while the existing gym, cafeteria and auditorium would remain where they are to save money.
Even with that money-saving measure, it
is estimated the 137,000-square-foot building will cost more than $17.
After the design presentation, the seven-member board unanimously passed a resolution to ask the Bradley County Commission to allocate $14.5 million to the project, with the board saying it will fund the remaining millions.
Though board members had a few questions about it, the design itself was largely met with positive feedback.
“I really like the whole concept,” 4th District board member Dianna Calfee said. “The look of the building is very attractive.” 
Third District board member Nicholas Lillios called the design “utilitarian,” but also said it was “very pleasing.” 
However, he also noted the design for the lobby includes three sets of doors and asked whether or not that would provide enough security.
Bush explained those doors could be opened during arrival and dismissal times, and locked during the day. A separate entrance into the school office would “funnel” visitors into the office while school is in session.
An aerial view of how the new building would fit on the school’s property shows the existing auditorium building being attached to the new academic building.
A consequence of that is the downward slope of the auditorium’s mono-pitched roof being placed right up against the new building’s roof.
Fifth District board member Rodney Dillard asked how the architects would help make sure rain pouring down the auditorium’s roof would not damage the new roof.
“It’s something we’ll definitely have to look at, but it’s a solvable problem,” Bush said.
Shover said additional drainage and adjustments to the auditorium roof’s pitch could likely eliminate that concern.
At this point, the new building’s features a flat roof, which could eventually provide a home for HVAC equipment.
Calfee said she would also like to have the architects take a look at the possibility of adding solar panels to the roof — if it could help save money on energy costs.
While the new building would allow students to stay inside while going from class to class, students will still have to walk to the gym and cafeteria.
The main entrance of the new building will be a short distance away from the gym, and Bush said the gym will be given a brick facade to match.
The cafeteria sits just beyond the gym, and a sidewalk would connect all three buildings.
With the building itself forming a shape reminiscent of a horseshoe, a new courtyard space would be created inside the negative space for students to use. The auditorium, gym and cafeteria sit on the other side of the building.
A new driveway will be built next to the sidewalk to give cars closer access to the entrance when students are arriving and leaving each day.
Lillios said he would like to see if there is a way to provide more separation between the cars and the kids for safety reasons — even if that means just adding a grass median.
The building itself will contain everything from a two-story library to science and computer lab spaces on each floor, and each of the three grades will have its own classroom wing.
Lake Forest Principal Ritchie Stevenson said he was happy to see the new building might soon become a reality.
“I’m very honored to be part of this process,” Stevenson said. “It will be a major turning point in the history of our school.” 
Students will continue to attend classes at Lake Forest while the construction takes place, and it is set to begin in early 2017 if the current schedule holds.
The design process and other preparations will continue throughout this year, and the bidding process for building contractors is expected to be completed in December. Shover said construction will likely begin soon thereafter, perhaps in January 2017.
Construction is expected to take anywhere from 16 to 20 months, depending on factors like weather, which Shover cautioned could delay the January start date.
However, based on that time estimate, the new building would be ready for students starting school in the fall of 2018.
“We’re very pleased with where we’re headed,” Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said.

The funding

The cost of a new academic building at Lake Forest Middle School is estimated to be in excess of $17.1 million.
The Bradley County Board of Education voted Tuesday to ask the Bradley County Commission to kick in $14.5 million for the project, while the board indicated it will handle the rest.
Money became a point of discussion during a schematic design presentation by Lewis Group Architects.
“We’re starting to see an uptick in construction costs,” said Douglas Shover, vice president for Lewis Group’s primary and secondary education division.
Because of that, he said he was going to be “very conservative” and estimate the price of the building based on construction costing between $125 and $130 per square foot.
The new two-story academic building is set to contain 137,000 square feet, making the building cost more than $17 million with either option.
“But, of course, we’re not going to do $130 [per foot],” Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said.
The board would later choose to budget based on the $125 per square foot estimate, making the current estimated total $17,125,000.
If county commissioners approve funding the $14.5 million amount, that would leave the school board’s share at $2,625,000.
The resolution was passed unanimously, with all seven board members present.
First District Chairman Chris Turner said the resolution will help “solidify” the commission’s commitment to the project. He also thanked the commissioners in attendance for their support.
The design itself was met with positive feedback from both the school board members and county commissioners.
“It’s a beautiful building,” Commissioner Thomas Crye said. “But we also have to keep our eyes focused on the cost.” 
County commissioners have already passed a resolution committing $12 million to the project, while the board had committed $1 million.
Previous cost estimates for the building have been as low as $12 million, but Turner noted the board has been discussing this for four years now. As time has passed, construction costs have continually risen.
Still, a couple board members said they felt good about the resolution and the board’s commitment to fund more than had been indicated in the past.
“I feel it’s a partnership with the County Commission,” Lillios said. “We’re truly taking on as much as we can as a school board.” 
That discussion also prompted board members to acknowledge that paying for the building could result in some short-term budgeting challenges.
Seventh District board member Charlie Rose said money is needed for items like technology, but addressing such needs may have to be delayed.
“We operate on a very, very tight budget,” Rose said. “We’ll have to put some things off.” 
Turner said he agreed it would require “sacrifice” in some areas. However, he also said he believes funding a new building for Lake Forest is important for the future of the school system.
With Thursday’s vote by the school board, the next step in the long debate over the Lake Forest project lies with the County Commission.
Cash said the design has already been subjected to multiple discussions about the needs of the school and the need to keep costs in a reasonable range.
“We do know that we will watch every penny going in and that we will be conservative with whatever we do,” Cash said. “However, we do want a quality building that will last a really long time — and that our students will be proud to be in.”


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