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April 23, 2014

Bowie Elementary focus of school bond forum

GREENVILLE — Bowie Elementary School was the main topic of discussion during an informational bond presentation and facility tour at the school Tuesday.

The current facility, constructed in 1956, is currently not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Greenville Independent School District Superintendent Don Jefferies said that along with not being ADA compliant and having classroom sizes not meeting state standards, there are many other issues the building is facing.

“You have 1956 schools and what do you have? You have issues from 1956,” he said. “You can mop the floors and take care of it but the walls, the structure, the sidewalks, things happen.”

The bond steering committee looked at two options for correcting the issues at Bowie: they could either refurbish the building for a total of $14.3 million, or construct a new one at the cost of $17.6 million.

After weighing both options, Jefferies said the committee decided on a new facility, even though it would raise the total bond to $72 million.

“They were comfortable coming forth and saying ‘that’s what we need, let’s do it,’” he said. “So there we are.”

Dale Mason, principal of Bowie, agreed with Jefferies, adding the design of the facility is not conducive to an elementary school environment.

“Even if we remodel this, we still have a dysfunctional layout,” he said.

The new facility would be built on top of the current one on Stonewall Street, and would keep the current K-1 wing, which was built in 2002.

The facility would also include classrooms that meet state size requirements, a wireless network throughout the facility, and would have more interactive learning materials such as iPads for the students to learn with.

“Believe me, kids can do some wonderful things with iPads,” he said, adding that since technology is changing in the workforce, he wants to prepare the students for the newer technology.

If the bond passes and a new facility is built on top of the current one, Jefferies said portable buildings will be brought to the rear of Lamar Elementary School for students enrolled at Bowie to attend.

Jefferies said the portable buildings are built into the $17.6 million cost of the facility, which would begin in June 2015.

Parents of students enrolled at Bowie raised some questions on the current cafeteria size and how close it is to the classrooms, which the loudness of the students in the cafeteria could interfere with students in classrooms.

Members of Huckabee Architecture, the firm that the district will use to build the facility if the bond passes, answered questions and said the layout will fix those issues by having quiet and loud zones built in to separate the loud activities, such as basketball games and eating in the cafeteria, from actual classroom space.

They added that the new cafeteria would be nearly double the current size and would have a larger stage for students to perform plays and other activities.

Another question raised was how the firm would construct the new facility on top of the shifting soil, since the current facility has cracks in walls and raised and lowered floors due to the shifting soil.

Members of the firm said that was taken into account and a separate structure will be built into the land that will isolate the facility from the land to decrease the amount of shifting that occurs.

Mason led tours of the facility, where he highlighted the places the school is not ADA compliant, and also the many leaks in the facility, which causes difficulty during severe weather or other events.

Mason said the flooding gets bad when severe weather strikes.

“When it rains really hard, we have an indoor pool,” he said, adding the facility also has wood paneling on many of its walls in hallways, which would cause a fire hazard for students attempting to escape from classrooms in those hallways.

Bruce Shores, assistant superintendent for GISD, said there is only so much room in a district’s budget for improvements when it has to factor in the cost of upkeep for the amount of schools in the district.

“You just can’t do that out of a regular budget,” he said. “Education is changing, and we need to change with it.”

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