By Debbie Adams
The Roanoke County School Board received an update on the progress of upcoming renovations and construction at William Byrd High School at its meeting on May 4.
Troy Smith, president of Avis Construction, and Earle Shumate, senior designer for Hughes and Associates Architects and Engineers, led the briefing along with Roanoke County Schools Director of Facilities and Operations Chris Lowe.
Avis Construction and Hughes and Associates were awarded the contract for the WBHS renovation and construction project in November 2020. Avis was also the contractor for the recent Cave Spring High School rebuild.
Shumate told the board that they began meeting with the faculty at William Byrd by departments in November socially distanced in the school’s auditorium to gain input on design plans and what the project should include.
Smith commended WBHS Principal Tammy Newcomb and Assistant Principal Travis Anderson for their dedication to the project and their interest in the smallest details shown in multiple meetings on the project. The administrators and their staff toured the recently renovated Cave Spring High School to determine what aspects of that project they might want to incorporate in the Byrd renovations and what they would like to be different.
During the board meeting, Smith and Shumate presented a series of slides, including site plans, building plans, and architectural renderings of the renovations.
Shumate said that the philosophy of Hughes and Associates was to make the Vinton school “look and feel like a new school without building a new school.”
They plan to accomplish this through a series of infill additions, some major renovations, reshuffling of spaces, and general updates of all the finishes in the building, all the casework, the HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing, etc.
Twelve trailers will be placed on the school grounds by Avis to provide classroom space for students displaced during the renovations. Those trailers will be moved onto the William Byrd campus in June and mobilized by July.
Some on-site work was initially set to begin this month with the bulk of the work getting underway once students are out of the building for the summer. That will most likely still be the schedule, but the planned completion date of December 2022 will likely be delayed. Smith says that is due to increased construction costs industry-wide, and extended months-long delays in shipments of construction materials once orders for materials are placed–due to both scarcity of materials and competition for what exists.
The initial cost of the project was estimated to be approximately $23 million, including soft costs of technology and furniture. That price may increase significantly. Smith said that pricing will be addressed on May 18. He noted that the price of plywood has increased dramatically in recent days with a sheet now costing approximately $40. A two-by-four is going for $9. Shumate told the board that there “is no fluff” in the renovation/construction project to be eliminated to reduce costs.
When Vinton’s representative to the School Board, Tim Greenway, asked if the project should be moved back several months due to the costs and uncertainty in the construction industry, the response was that it should proceed as planned because costs might only increase over time.
Some features of the William Byrd project will include a renovation of Byrd’s front portico and its front lobby with a new Hall of Fame, new science labs, new art classrooms, the addition of its first Choir Room, a new gym dedicated to wrestling and cheerleading, a new elevator, renovations to the guidance offices and media center with the two flipping spaces, addition of a sprinkler system, added security systems, and the addition of numerous restrooms throughout the building. One corridor in the tech ed area of the building will be eliminated.
Workspaces will be added for special education staff to work with students. The final portion of the building which has not received a new roof will have one installed. An emphasis will be placed on natural lighting, including the addition of an atrium.
Shumate said the changes will make the spaces “more flexible and full of natural light.”
The original front of the high school, facing Washington Avenue/Route24, will be updated, improved, and made ADA accessible. Shumate said the desire is to make “the image of the school from Washington Avenue ‘memorable.’”
The purpose of the William Byrd project is to “bring the school up to the standards of the other four high schools in the county.” The school was built in 1969 and has been renovated or added to piecemeal on six previous occasions.
Shumate said the plan is to make the Byrd facility “more cohesive—to look like a school that was built all at the same time.”
This is the first Roanoke County school to be built under the “design build” model in which the designer and contractor work together from the beginning, as a team, providing unified project recommendations to fit the owner’s schedule and budget.
Greenway thanked the board and the school system for their willingness to take on the Byrd renovation project and “bring pride to the school and community.” He implored other board members not to “piecemeal things together again” at any county school—“no more band-aids. We can’t let the facilities in one area get so dilapidated again.”
Also, during the May 4 board meeting Ben Motley with RRMM Architects presented an analysis of the feasibility of building a new BCAT Career and Technical Education center on the site of Central Office on Cove Road as has been suggested.
The current, antiquated BCAT center is located in Salem—in a floodplain. The need for its replacement has been an ongoing topic of conversation between School Board members and the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors for many months.
In his presentation, Motley pointed out many reasons that building a new BCAT on the Cove Road site might not be the best choice. Space is limited at the location and there are many topographical constraints. He displayed several maps with configurations of attempting to fit a new building onto the site.
The current BCAT facility occupies 84,000 to 89,000 square feet on 13.5 usable acres with 178 parking spaces. The proposed Cove Road site would have only 9.4 usable acres.
The BCAT program is requesting 210,650 square feet of building to accommodate students and programs. While it would seem feasible to design a building with more than one level, many CTE programs do not lend themselves to that concept. For example, auto body programs must be located on the first floor and it would be challenging to place other programs on floors above them.
If the Central Administration building and BCAT were located together on the Cove Road site, the total square footage needed would total 254,850 square feet, with 360 parking spaces—in essence, three times the building area on a 30% smaller site. The theoretical project cost would be $79 million.
Motley recommended that the next steps the board should take include verifying the BCAT program requests, creating design concepts, and using those design concepts to determine site acreage, conduct a site evaluation, and refine the project budget