DuBOIS — An overview of the DuBois Area School District’s current elementary schools was provided at last week’s Building and Maintenance Committee meeting.

The study was presented by Mike Kelly, of KCBA Architects of Hatfield, Pa., as part of an Educational Facilities Master Plan.

School closings

In 2012, Highland Elementary School closed and 143 students went to Wasson Elementary.

In 2017, Sykesville Elementary School closed and 93 students were sent to C.G. Johnson Elementary in Reynoldsville. Penfield Elementary closed and 34 students were sent to Juniata Elementary while 37 students were sent to Oklahoma Elementary. Luthersburg Elementary also closed in 2017 and 94 students were sent to Wasson Elementary.

Renovations savings as a result of consolidation is listed at $26,428,241. According to the presentation, the total saved is as follows:

  • Penfield: $4,965,234
  • Highland: $8,080,957
  • Luthersburg: $6,865,089
  • Sykesville: $6,516,962

Facilities Assessments

Enrollment at Oklahoma is at 367 and it has a building capacity of 441.

“So it’s at 83 percent (building capacity), or about 21 kids in a class,” Kelly said. “When we look at percentage, we like to see between about 80 and 85. So, it’s not like I’m trying to get a 100 on a test. You don’t want to be at 100 percent capacity, because when that bubble class comes in, or something like that happens, or a new curriculum is added into a school, then you’re bursting. You don’t have enough room to go anywhere. So you want to be at about 80-85 percent.”

Enrollment at Wasson Elementary is 457 and within an acceptable level for building capacity at 524.

“So there at 87 percent, a little bit above 85, but still we’re not panicking,” Kelly said. “That still would’ve been a bit of a manageable area, as far as capacity goes.”

Looking at the district’s emotional support classrooms at Oklahoma, Kelly said there are two plus a de-escalation room in the main office, a Title I classroom in the former storage room and two learning support classrooms.

Wasson has three autistic support classrooms, a sensory room, a Title 1 classroom and two learning support classrooms (one room split into two smaller).

Regarding music, art and science rooms at Oklahoma, there is a music room in the former storage room (access through it to a basement mechanical), art has been moved to a general classroom and no “Maker Space” included within the school.

At Wasson, there is a music room in a large group auditorium (stage and seating are not ADA compliant). Art was moved into the library with no dedicated storage and there is no “Maker Space” at the school.

According to a National Center for Education Statistics, a 2011 study found the average elementary school size is 450 students.

“Having a school at 450, is considered average,” Kelly said. “So you’re about there anyway. Before that closed, we were all significantly undersized.”

“Running and operating a school with 150 students is very inefficient because every one of those school has to have a gym, has to have a music room, has to have art,” Kelly said. “If only 150 kids are being accessed to those spaces, it’s just inefficient when you look at it as a national average. So the ones that were consolidated, even after the consolidation, you’re at average, or just slightly above.”

Juniata was last renovated in 2012, C.G. Johnson in 2000, Oklahoma in 1994 and Wasson has never been renovated since it was built in 1977.

Improvements are being focused on Wasson and Oklahoma, said Kelly, noting that “it’s also great for Luthersburg kids, Penfield kids, and Highland kids, because they all got consumed as well. So as we’re focusing on these two, we’re actually gaining for many others. And certainly the Penfield kids that went to Juniata went to very nice buildings as well. The large majority are gonna be affected by any types of improvement at Wasson or Oklahoma.”

According to the study, Kelly reported the following regarding building capacity and student enrollment at Oklahoma and Wasson:

  • Actual building capacity affected by educational use and regional special education needs
  • Most schools are operating within acceptable levels of capacity.
  • Needs for small group and conference spaces in both schools
  • New curriculum initiatives (STEM, Maker Spaces, etc.) will further affect buildings’ capacities.

Oklahoma Elementary

There are some “inherent issues” with the envelope of the Oklahoma building, which was constructed in 1952 on 6 acres, Kelly said. It is a two-story building and about 41,500 square feet and is classed at being in fair condition.

“Now, the front parking lot recently was sealed, and that looks nice. But the rear parking lot, is actually a drive-through road,” Kelly said. “It’s a public road that essentially brings the public right by a drop-off area for students. Essentially right by windows and the classrooms, leading to a bit of a security concern there. And the windows along this area are really actually in very poor condition.”

“One of the biggest concerns is there’s no secure vestibule,” Kelly said. “What we want to do when a visitor enters a school is have them walk into a vestibule and stop. So you open a door, and then you have to open another door. The idea of doing that in a school is you’re stopping a visitor. So you have the ability to go, ‘Yes, sir. Why are you here?’ I’d say, ‘I’m here to pick up my sick kid.’ ‘Great, come directly into the admin suite.’ Let’s not just let them into the lobby where kids are moving around. That creates multiple steps of security for visitors entering school during a school day.”

Other areas of concern include:

  • Student lobby and entry to assembly spaces between building entrance and administration
  • No security cameras or building-wide emergency communication system
  • Guidance office located within nurse’s suite
  • Lack of conferment rooms resulting in confidentially concerns
  • Learning space under fire stairs
  • Open library area is a security concern and a noise/distraction issue with passing students
  • Music room in former storage room
  • Gym/cafeteria combination results in physical education, lunch and assembly scheduling conflicts. No air conditioning in gym.
  • Emotional support with no de-escalation room resulting in safety concerns
  • Lack of storage space

Wasson Elementary

Wasson Elementary was constructed in 1977 on 56 acres. It is a one-story building and 50,423 square feet. The building condition is listed as fair. A secure vestibule was added directly into administrative area.

Areas of concern include:

  • Front parking lot is cracked and in need of repair
  • Roof in poor condition
  • HVAC in poor condition
  • No security cameras inside or building-wide emergency communication system
  • Lack of conference rooms and small group instructional needs
  • OT/PT in corridors. No storage.
  • Need for storage space for clothing and food for children in need.
  • Open library area is a security concern and a noise/distraction issue with passing students. It was recently reduced in size and shares with art.
  • Classrooms are small with very limited storage. Many are without natural light.
  • Gym/cafeteria combination results in physical education, lunch and assembly scheduled conflicts.
  • The music room is not ADA compliant.

Key points

According to the study, both Oklahoma and Wasson are in need of renovations. They have aging infrastructure and changing educational goals – primary factors.

Both schools need storage, small group spaces, technological upgrades, as well as music, art and STEM education spaces. Both have shared gym/cafeterias.

As a result of site size, it would be easier to expand Wasson than Oklahoma, Kelly said.

Consideration should be given to consolidating both schools, he said.

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Additional details about the study and the potential long-term master plan scenarios will be published in an upcoming edition of the Courier-Express.

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