Community survey shows support for high school renovation

By Kate Hayden,

A majority of Charles City school district members would support renovations to the Charles City High School, the Board of Education heard at Monday’s meeting.

Communications and Community Engagement Specialist Justin DeVore presented initial public feedback on the high school design proposed by BLDD Architects during a public meeting on Jan. 22.

The plan presented would cost an estimated $26 million and includes 90,000-94,000 square feet of renovated or new construction space, Underwood said at the previous meeting.

The proposal is part of the Charles City school district’s broader “Phase II” plan to renovate or rebuild the high school, after a new Charles City Middle School building was opened in August 2016 with the intent to create a “single campus” high school and middle school.

No date has been set yet on a bond vote election. In 2018, a referendum could be held in April, September or December.


The district received 71 responses from community members in the Charles City school district, who could take the survey from Jan. 26 through Feb. 11, DeVore said.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said they would support the high school renovation project, and 7 percent of respondents would oppose the project. Twenty percent of respondents said they were “neutral,” DeVore said, although they indicated that if specific concerns were addressed they could support the project in a bond vote.

The majority of comments received had concerns over parking, the auditorium/stage, the weight room and wrestling facilities, DeVore said, noting that the district survey asked specifically about parking concerns.

The design presented by Jean Underwood of BLDD Architects includes an estimated 250 new parking spaces, DeVore said.

“The auditorium and stage is by far and away your biggest unresolved issue so far,” DeVore told board members. “The message you are hearing from the community is that they would like a 21st century auditorium.”

Twenty commenters shared concerns for the auditorium including storage capabilities, fly space, dressing rooms and bathrooms, band pit space and space to accommodate production sets and concerts.

“One of the comments made was, ‘don’t settle for traditional,’ and large sets need to be in backstage,” DeVore said.

Twelve commenters addressed expanding and modernizing the high school’s weight room, and seven specifically mentioned modernizing the wrestling facilities.

Other commenters shared concerns for storage, music facilities, the gymnasium and education in general, DeVore said. Responders also supported opening a Comet store in the high school, and voiced concerns over whether the high school would offer lockers to students.

“Special education teachers still have some specific requests that they don’t feel have been fully addressed in Phase II drawings,” DeVore told the board.

“I also think some work needs to be done to correct some misconceptions with the staff on things that they are saying,” DeVore said.

“My comment is, we’re not done with the design yet,” Vice President Scott Dight said. “We continue to seek input and make corrections or changes to a plan until we’re ready to go to a vote.”

In public comment, former speech and drama director Linda Brant said she was concerned about the amount of space the BLDD proposal designates for the theater department — including backstage shop space, a loading dock, dressing/bathrooms and costume collection space.

“I have to say that the designs posted right now for an auditorium make me very sad. I don’t know the dimensions, so I could be wrong and would be happy to be wrong,” Brant told the board.