Before board members adjourned for a two-hour work session, Walker High School Principal Gary Boling introduced the school’s new coach Heath Brunner.
“We have recommended, and you have approved in your wisdom, a gentleman that is a proven head coach. He proved it this year in the most difficult of circumstances. He has a lot of experience in good programs, including our own good program,” Boling said. “He is well respected by his fellow staff members, administration, parents, students, student athletes. He is a man of integrity and character and work ethic second to none. He has good rapport with his fellow coaches, which is extremely important.
“He has respect from the other coaches outside of Walker High School and the officials outside of Walker High School,” Boling continued. “I think we’ve hit a home run tonight, and I am just very pleased to introduce to you coach Heath Brunner as the new head coach at Walker High, and I hope his tenure with us will be long and include a lot of success, and I’m sure it will be.”
Brunner shook hands with Superintendent Robert Sparkman and introduced his wife and children.
“We’re really excited,” Brunner said. “I want to thank Dr. Sparkman, the board members [and] Mr. Boling for showing confidence in me to overtake a program that is well respected, and I look forward to the challenge of building on the foundation that’s already laid there and upholding the great tradition of Walker football.”
During the last work session the board held in November, Sparkman and board members were shown options and design changes that would fit their $52 million budget for the construction of a new high school. The board then sat down and started prioritizing those options presented.
The November session ended with the board asking representatives from Hoar Program Management and Lathan Associates Architects to come back with a few more options after they had established that academics come first and athletics second.
“The changes that were made: There’s no longer a basement gym; there’s no longer a basement field house, everything is on the main level. There is no basement level at all anymore,” said Jay Kirkpatrick of HPM. “This will be the main gym. This is the PE gym and locker rooms, and the theater was moved to this area. It has the same seating capacity, but it’s far more efficient in this location and reduces the size of it by close to 7,000 square feet, and it still maintains the same seating capacity.”
The main changes in the second revision presented were to the nonacademic portions of the school. He then handed out materials such as a base bid budget summary sheet, revised layouts of the school and the site, and a sheet of deductive and additive options.
Rick Lathan of Lathan Associates explained that “one of the things that we’ve done in this particular plan is we’ve kept most of the program now, and in the previous plan we talked about one of the options being that we would lose dance, culinary arts and ROTC. In this plan we’ve preserved that; we’ve just moved it to different locations, eliminated the basement, moved it to different locations and made it a little bit smaller. We’ve kept the programs, but we’ve cut the square footage.”
The square footage was reduced from approximately 306,000 to a little more than 250,000 square feet.
Looking at the base bid budget summary, Kirkpatrick pointed out where the building itself, excluding soft costs and site work, was originally budgeted at $43,547,000.
The current design shows a 254,000 square feet facility for $37,676,000. The decrease from the last estimate — the $74 million total budget that given the last time before the budget was set — to this one is $5,870,000.
A few issues and questions were raised by board members and those in attendance Tuesday night, such as:
• Will there be separate male and female weight rooms or one weight room?
There will be one large weight room, which can be subdivided. The existing weight room is around 5,000 square feet. The new weight room will be between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet. Boling brought up a concern with this.
“You’d be hard pressed to get both of those, and I don’t know maybe this is the wrong assumption, assuming that we have to have equal square footage for girls and guys,” Boling said. “You would be very hard pressed to get what we need to do running that many kids through the weight room with the males. Females would be fine with that kind of space ... but you would have a hard time for the guys.”
Sparkman added that it would be something they’ll have to look at and address at some point.
• Where will students go during inclement weather now that the basement level is eliminated?
Students will go to the band and choral rooms and the corridor area, which are internal and centrally located in the facility.
The walls will be heavy reinforced and sound proof. It will be built to hold 900 to 1,000 students, including faculty and staff members.
Representatives also mentioned that because the walls will be heavily reinforced and sound proof, it will keep volume levels at a minimum to where it will not disturb neighboring spaces, like the cafeteria.
• What about adding the softball field to the new school site, in addition to repairing the old tennis courts or building new ones and repairing the track, which needs a lot of work done as well?
Sparkman asked about building a softball field by the new school, asking if it would work or not? Kirkpatrick said it would fit in the area where a proposed middle school would be built in the future.
Board member Roy Beall said, “I just hate spending money across that road over there, when you know that’s just like ...”
“Throwing it away,” chairwoman Rene Simmons added.
• Are the safety issues with the football stadium and baseball field going to be addressed?
Boling said he fears to keep allowing people into the stadium and the safety of the kids because “the one column is in the creek, and you’ve got separation of massive concrete side paneling that weighs tons and cracks. The baseball field has, what appears to be, a sinking area where apparently a creek is underneath it.” Kirkpatrick said it would cost tens of thousands, not millions, to repair. Boling requested board members to come and look at those particular issues.
• What about a recommendation for trying to find another plot of land to build on?
That would cause more bussing of students from the middle school and high school to athletic areas if that was the case.
“We’ve tried every way possible to give you your program, your full program, and try to get something for the site as well,” Lathan said. “It’s just impossible to get athletics and [the] building within the $52 million. It’s either sacrifice on square footage of the building or program(s) for the building to balance something with the athletics.”
Sparkman closed the meeting, saying “That seems to say to me that we’re just wasting money and time on a different site. ... We’ve got to give them some direction. Let’s get all the building we can get and build a softball field wherever we need to build it that we can get it in the budget we got,” Sparkman said.
The board plans to hold another work session after they return from Christmas break to discuss the plans further for the new school.
They will then hold a meeting to approve those plans and present it to the Jasper City Council where they hope to start putting out bids afterwards.