Angie Lyon of the architectural firm Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris said plans for the Lake Forest project have been approved by Travelers Insurance, which is still set to give the school system money because of damage to a different school. Insurance money from the destruction of Blue Springs Elementary School, which closed after it was damaged by a tornado in 2011, will go to Lake Forest.
The portion of next year’s budget proposed by the school board’s capital outlay committee includes an allocation of $350,000 to be paired with $287,000 in existing insurance revenues.
Changes being proposed to the freestanding auditorium include adding onto its front to accommodate the addition of a lobby, ticket booths and a backstage area complete with restrooms.
Currently, those who walk into the auditorium’s two front entrances find themselves next to the existing men’s and women’s restrooms that are on opposite sides of the building. If an audience is waiting for the doors to open before an event, they must wait outside because there is no lobby area.
“We basically reworked the core spaces to allow people to walk in,” Lyon said.
Board member Charlie Rose questioned what would be put in place in terms of moisture protection to prevent further water damage, a problem that has reportedly plagued multiple buildings on the school’s campus.
Lyon said only $1,500 was allowed in the budget approved by the insurance company. However, the new parts of the construction, particularly the front area that includes the lobby, will be built with moisture protection measures not already in place.
Explaining the auditorium’s potential design, she showed board members a drawing depicting the new front facade. Two sides of the facade, which she referred to as “towers,” frame a more simple area in the middle. Lyon said the design will allow for a new academic building which could be constructed in the future and attached to the existing structure.
“This was part of our original request,” Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said, noting it would ultimately result in students having to travel between buildings less often.
The middle school campus already consists of multiple buildings.
Given existing water damage he said has caused issues with one of the exterior walls at the back of the auditorium, board member Chris Turner asked what the cost would be to add brick to all of the walls instead of just the front facade.
Lyon said she believed that would be possible, but the cost of doing that is not reflected in the budget presented to the school board.
Moving onto the issue of traffic at Hopewell Elementary, Lyon said she had heard from Tennessee Department of Transportation officials who had told her a traffic study of the area around the school needed to be conducted.
During the board’s March 13 meeting, Bradley County Commissioners Terry Caywood and Ed Elkins presented board members with an issue they should be addressed. Showing photos of backed-up traffic around the school, they explained afternoon traffic gets so bad there that people picking up their children create lines of traffic that stretch from the school’s driveway, out onto a side road and back up onto Highway 60.
Bradley County has been in discussions with TDOT regarding the potential widening of Highway 60, and Caywood said it was time to start considering how traffic at the school could be alleviated. If the school needed to redo its driveway, the school board needed to submit a request while the road project was still being designed.
Elkins suggested the school board consider buying a strip of land owned by Volunteer Energy that adjoins the school property. A strip of new land could be used to widen the school’s exit, he said.
That day, the board voted to create an ad hoc committee between the County Commission and the school board. However, the board has not yet met, and discussions continued Tuesday.
Lyon showed board members a design that curved the existing driveway onto adjoining property and said the project could be done without necessarily relying on TDOT’s plans to keep some of the cars from spilling out onto the road.
Part of the plan took into account two lanes of traffic traveling close to the back of the school building, instead of the one that currently forms there.
Hopewell Principal Tim Riggs was asked his opinion on the plans at the meeting. He explained some schedule changes the school is planning to implement in the fall, and said he was unsure of the idea of “stacking” cars in two lanes.
When the issue was first presented to the board, its members were shown photos of barricades placed in the driveways of the school to prevent cars from moving through while children who have to cross those driveways during recess play.
The school has generally lifted those barricades just before the time buses and cars arrive to take children home from school, but they will be lifted earlier starting this fall. Riggs said no outdoor activities will be planned for after 2 p.m., and cars could begin lining up at that earlier time.
Riggs said he thought the narrowness of the existing space behind the school would render having two lanes of traffic unsafe for the students and teachers leaving the building at the end of the day.
Referencing an incident in Flintstone, Ga., on April 14 in which a kindergartener was hit and killed by a bus outside a public elementary school, he stressed he did not want to create a situation where moving buses and children on foot would always be in such close proximity to each other.
Board member Chris Turner pointed out the issue of most concern to the county commissioners was the fact TDOT was in the process of making changes which could include a consideration of Hopewell’s needs, whereas Lyon’s plan did not include working with TDOT.
“While this may help, you’re still dumping every car onto a two-lane road,” Turner said.
School board member Troy Weathers said he believed both things were needed — a plan to work with TDOT and a more immediate plan on the school level.
His concern was that the widening of Highway 60 had the potential to take longer than anticipated.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said.
The proposed budget also includes “contingency” money which could be earmarked for the project at Hopewell Elementary School if or when the cost of it becomes known.
However, the board has not yet approved the system’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. During the same meeting, the board voted to delay the budget’s final vote.