By Beth Cassidy
The school board approved by a vote of 6-1 last week a contract with architectural firm Walter, Robbs, Callahan and Pierce (WRCP). The contract gives WRCP the go-ahead to create a schematic design for a new high school and a design for repurposing Davie High, at a cost of $175,000.
Superintendent Dr. Darrin Hartness said he was pleased with the price, noting “starting from scratch would cost considerably more.”
The board has a set of plans designed by WRCP three years ago that will be used and revised.
Most board members said they felt confident in the choice of WRCP, that working with them on other projects, Ellis Middle and Cornatzer Elementary, proved to be positive.
One board member, Steve Ridenhour, who was the lone no vote, did not agree. “I’m still troubled with the process of the RFQs (Requests for Qualifications). I feel we didn’t even consider the other architects. I’m gonna vote no, I already told Dr. Hartness. And my vote is based on the process that we’ve done. And I’m not sure they’re (WRCP) the best choice. I’m not saying they’re not good, but they’re not the best choice.”
Wendy Horne disagreed.
“We’ve had experience with WRCP and been very pleased with other facilities they’ve done. Yes there were only five firms who responded to the RFQ, and I hate to say this, but maybe some folks didn’t want to work with us. I mean, we’ve been doing this for 10 years.” She said WRCP was the only firm that, in the RFQ response, expressed interest in working with local businesses and in seeking community input on a new facility.
There was discussion about the actual facility, about cost difference in building a one-story versus two- or multiple- story buildings and about size of classrooms. Clark Pierce told the board it is generally less expensive to go up than out. Horne said she believed a two-story building would more adequately address safety and security issues.
Board members said they may visit other schools built by WRCP, including Reagan and Walkertown, and may go to some schools in Charlotte.
Carol Livengood said they need to consider space for CTE (career and technical education) programs, such as auto-mechanics, something not included in the original plan, because the thinking then was that program would remain at Davie.
“My daughter’s hairdresser makes $200,000 a year. Those jobs aren’t going to go away. We need to be forward-thinking. It’s difficult to decide on a building that will meet the needs 30 years down the road. We just have to do the best we can with the information we have.”
Hartness said staff would be involved with the design process and he is “very encouraged we’ve got this team (WRCP). I talked to the superintendent of Forsyth County Schools, Don Martin, and they have been very pleased with the work WRCP has done there. Every time they’ve built something, they’ve made it better. I am confident that whatever we come up with and recommend can be included in the plans.”
Paul Drechsler said it was “scary” to only put out one option, construction of a new school, without having a backup plan should a bond referendum fail. He said at that point, there would still be the issues of crowded classrooms, too many lunch periods, and inadequate locker rooms ...