Preliminary steps taken for WBHS renovations

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DEBBIE ADAMS

At a Roanoke County School Board work session on November 12, board members awarded a contract to the Thompson & Litton firm for an initial study to determine the scope of the renovations for William Byrd High School.

While the date is still somewhat flexible, construction is estimated to begin in July 2021 with completion in about two years. The estimated cost for the project is $21 million.

Thompson & Litton is a company of engineers, architects, and surveyors located in Radford. According to Roanoke County Public Schools Director of Operations, Mark Kitta, they will perform a capital project estimate based on information provided to them from various stakeholders.

The firm is one of a number of Architects–Engineering Firms which have standing contracts with Roanoke County.

“Through cooperative language, we are able to utilize the existing contract,” Kitta said.

William Byrd High School was originally constructed in 1969.

While parts of the school were renovated in 2010 (primarily the cafeteria, administration, and JROTC space), the core of the building (the West and South wings) have never been renovated.

The renovations and additions in 2010 addressed deficiencies in instructional spaces, administrative areas, and in common spaces such as the cafeteria and athletic areas. The administrative and reception areas were relocated to the primary point of entry. This relocation offered a clear point of entry to increase visibility and security, as well as improved the quality and functionality of administrative offices and support spaces.

The partial renovation included repurposing of the auxiliary gym for new classrooms to eliminate modular units and address enrollment growth in the Vinton attendance area, addition of a new auxiliary gym and classrooms, expansion of the cafeteria, new curtains and seating in auditorium, ceiling and lighting upgrades, new front entry and administrative offices, and athletic facility improvements.

During fiscal year 2015-2016, the School Board funded a Facilities Use and Conditions Assessment Study to help identify and plan for future facility renovation and modernization projects.

The study reviewed all major systems in the facilities (HVAC, electrical, roofing, lighting, etc.) and identified the scope of renovations needed to restore William Byrd to optimum operating condition.

This assessment has helped inform some of the prioritization of projects in the FY 2020-2029 CIP.

The study conducted by OWPR in 2016 to identify infrastructure needs at William Byrd

included renovations to classrooms, media center, guidance offices, corridors, restrooms, science labs, interior door improvements, replacement of the main gym floor, HVAC retrofits, electrical upgrade and plumbing upgrades, replacement of auditorium lighting/sound system, and sprinkler system.

In February 2019, Roanoke County School Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely and a team made up of Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Eastwood, Secondary Administrator Jamie Soltis, and Kitta completed another school facilities study with extensive evaluations, including school visits and interviews with principals.

The team came up with a priority list for renovations to nine specific schools with WBHS at the top of the list.

In a presentation to the school board in June 2019, Dr. Nicely emphasized that:

  • While parts of WBHS were renovated in 2010, the core of the building (west and south wings) has never been renovated since the building was constructed in 1969.
  • The science classrooms are not designed for current science programming. The library-media center is the original 1969 facility and does not support current programming. Classroom sizes do not meet Virginia guidelines. The Family and Consumer Science classrooms do not support current programming. The school has no choir room.
  • The current structure at William Byrd does not allow for proper traffic flow through the building. The single elevator is on the opposite end of the building from the core classroom area. The targeted 2010 renovation work and various additions to the building have promoted the mistaken belief that WBHS was already properly renovated. Any further delays would promote gross inequity of facilities.

In 2016, renovations were completed to the locker rooms and team rooms at Byrd and a new turf field was installed at the stadium in 2017.

Kitta says the upcoming project is not planned to be nearly as extensive as the renovations currently underway at Cave Spring High School.

He says that the school system is uncertain whether students will be displaced during the renovations.

“This is part of the study; we are anticipating the use of temporary learning cottages at some point,” Kitta said.  “As we further develop the scope, we will begin to develop a more detailed idea of how this project will impact students and staff.”