Clarke County School Board construction committee chairman Jim Brinkmeier’s persistence may have paid off for County students and taxpayers alike today. In a midday meeting School Board members learned that recent changes in regulations governing storm water management now make it likely that an expansion of the old Clarke County High School will not require a massive storm water retention pond similar to the one at the new high school.
More importantly, said Brinkemier (Berryville), expansion of the old high school could mean that all Berryville-area elementary students are under a single roof and possibly negating the need to maintain and renovate at least one existing school building.
“I’m not saying that an expansion of the old high school is the right option at this point,” said Brinkmeier. “However, I do want to have all of the facts available for the School Board when it does make its decision on how best to proceed.”
Brinkmeier added that storm water management is just one aspect of the School Board’s renovation considerations. Exterior and interior renovation costs associated with the thirty-plus year old building will also be a factor.
“I’d like to do what is most efficient,” Brinkmeier said. “We are expecting to have cost estimates from Crabtree Rohrbaugh Associates and OWPR in the next week or so. We’ll have to wait until then to fully understand the bigger picture.”
At today’s meeting PHR&A site design engineer, Ron Mislowski told the School Board that after a preliminary assessment based on worst-case conditions, a 15,000 square foot expansion can be added to the old high school without the need for a large retaining pond. Mislowski added that an expansion might possibly even be below the threshold requiring any storm water management plan at all.
The news from PHR&A came as a surprise to several School Board members who had initially resisted Brinkmeier’s plan to pursue expansion at the existing old high school citing concerns that storm water management could not be properly addressed at the site.
“How is it that no storm water retention pond is required for this plan when previous plans for using the adjacent land for a high school required significant storm water management?” School Board Member Chip Schutte (White Post) asked Mislowski.
“The other site was all grass. At that time, Virginia Department of Conservation Resources (DCR) wasn’t providing storm water management credit for using bio-remediation measures like grass swales,” Mislowski replied. “Now DCR is looking for more local measures and doesn’t want to see large storm water ponds.”
Mislowski also confirmed that removal of portable classroom trailers currently at the old high school will increase the level of permeable surface space and further reduce the need for storm water management.
School Board members seemed enthused by the new information.
“It’s good to get some good news once and awhile,” said School Board member Barbara Lee (Millwood).
“It’s very encouraging that the new regulations have given us options that we didn’t have before,” said School Board chairman Janet Alger (Russell).
“I tried to use the worst possible scenario that I could,” said Mislowski referring to his review of the old high school’s storm water management challenges. “Of course, in order to use grass swales to manage the storm water you will have to dedicate an easement to ensure that the area always remains grass.”
Mislowski guess-timated that the grass swales needed for the project might cost as much as $50K but would be well below the cost of building a storm water retention pond.
“I’m encouraged,” said Schutte after the meeting. “But we still have to be concerned about where the storm water ultimately goes when it leaves our site. We also still need Planning Commission approval and need to understand how folks downstream are going to deal with the water.”
Brinkmeier said after the meeting that he was appreciative that his fellow School Board members have kept an open mind toward consolidating the Berryville area’s elementary school students under a single roof and said that such an approach could have a tremendous upside for students.
“Say that you have an advanced second-grader that can benefit from spending time in a third-grade classroom,” said Brinkmeier after the meeting. “The child could easily walk from one classroom to the other. There are a lot of other benefits to having everyone under a single roof. It eliminates busing students between buildings and might also eliminate the need for maintaining one of our buildings.”
Brinkmeier also noted that future use of the Berryville Primary building for administrative offices would probably require installation of an elevator in order to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Brinkmeier said that under a single-roof approach for students at the old Clarke County High School, the D. G. Cooley Elementary building could be freed up for use by administrators negating the need to renovate Berryville Primary.
Cooley’s proximity to the old high school would not only make access between administrators and students more convenient, it would also eliminate the operational and renovation costs currently under consideration for Berryville Primary.
“We only have one chance to do this right and I want to look at all of the options,” Brinkmeier said. “This could be a way to have a beautiful facility that is centrally located. We’ll have a better idea once we get the design costs next week.”