The next hurdle in the process of renovating/expanding the Blanco Elementary School campus was cleared on Monday night as trustees approved the design development phase documents as presented by Bob Shelton of Fromberg Associates. Shelton credited meetings with elementary teachers and staff for making the plan better over the last few months.
Part of his presentation to trustees showed a topographical survey of the campus, which involves several changes in grade, moving up from the proposed new cafeteria all the way to the rear of the centerpiece of the campus—the original limestone mission-style school. A series of steps and ramps will ease the transition, and a berm will be used to address drainage issues. A retaining wall will be built around trees so as not to damage their roots; and as many trees as possible will be spared, including moving one section of the new classroom addition to save a large live oak. Trees in the courtyard between wings of the new classroom area will be preserved, where students can gather in “outdoor classrooms,” which will have wide steps for seating.
Improvements which will address student safety include a low wall to keep students out of the parking lot and a bus loop away from where parents pick up and drop off students. A covered walkway will serve students waiting for buses, which will be parked so that the passenger doors face the walkway. The entire campus will be ADA-compliant, including ramps and a special life skills restroom. Four of the new classrooms will contain sinks to be available for science experiments. The four new restrooms in the new classroom wings will be accessible from the outdoor basketball courts behind the original school building. Electrical wiring will allow provisions for a security system throughout the building.
Renovation of the “old yellow” building will include removing the paint from its limestone walls and adding limestone and stucco finishes to the new classrooms surrounding it. According to Tom Rehak of Vanguard Contractors, bids for demolition of the interior will be let September 20. A special board meeting is scheduled for September 26 to approve the bidder. As Shelton explained, metal columns will run to footings under the flooring of the building so that the historic walls will not bear the load of new construction. Mechanical equipment will be placed on the outer perimeter of the new classrooms so that the courtyard is open. A low wall will conceal the equipment. As well, mechanical equipment will be placed on the roof of the new cafeteria, also with a limestone façade, and a parapet will be erected to shield it from view.
Shelton presented a revised schedule for the $8 million project, which will reduce the construction-documents phase from 90 to 65 days, with the goal of completing the project by December 2012. Plans can be viewed at http://fromberg.com/news.current.htm or by a link from the district website, blancoisd.org.
Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford reported that three trustees, Bernie San Miguel, Troy Immel, and Charles Riley, will attend the TASB/TASA Fall Convention in Austin September 30-October 2. Several trustees also plan to attend a Texas Education Code Orientation/Update Training in Fredericksburg September 21. Dr. Ford also reported that the district is waiting for the Texas Attorney General to give final approval to the issuance of bonds for the renovation/construction project. A preliminary letter of approval has been issued, and the final approval should happen “at any time,” in Ford’s words.
The monthly Spotlight on Students featured Blanco High School’s dance team, the Pantherettes. Present were Captain Maira Moreno, junior Echoe Burkhart, sophomore Megan Wier, freshmen Courtnie Shroeder, Mairah Ackerson, and Courtney Marshall, and manager Dana Alston. Also recognized was Mariana Gonzalez, who films routines and edits music, and sponsor Mrs. Amanda Wier. Team members attended a summer camp hosted by the Texas State Strutters, which including learning new routines, perfecting their technique, and dancing eight hours a day. Principal Dustin Barton recognized them for their efforts, and Superintendent Ford thanked them for representing Blanco High School.
In other business, trustees reviewed revisions to the 2011-12 Parent-Student Handbook, approved a revision to Policy EIA (local) dealing with the district’s choices in using EOC assessments as part of students’ final grades, and approved rescinding Policy EIAB (local). TASB will soon be removing the policy code from the Table of Contents. The justification is that its provisions are already addressed in the district’s grading guidelines in the student handbook. Finally, trustees approved a revision to Policy EIC (local) which clarifies the district’s rules for calculating class rank and determining graduation honors.