Buzz about Bartlett High renovation is positive


Bartlett’s been buzzing about the eye-catching and feature-rich renovations proposed for its high school since the school board’s March 30 presentation. Memphis-based Fleming Architects laid out five options and explained why Option 5 — expanding and fixing up the high school campus and keeping the 9th Grade Academy at its current location — is the board’s preferred option.

The proposal has a price tag estimated at $55 to $60 million, but it’s far lower than the other options explored. Those topped out at $80 million to $110 million or more.

Proposed funding for the project includes a $0.14 property tax increase. (See our April 6 story at bartlett-express for details.)

Community members will have a chance to pose questions and hear more information at the upcoming Town Hall Meeting at 7 p.m. April 20 in the Bartlett High School Auditorium.

Early feedback seems to be trending toward the positive among people who heard the March 39 presentation.

Tracey Steward of Bartlett was skeptical about what the architect was going to propose. “I went with an attitude of ‘We need a new school, period.’ But I listened to all the options, and really and truly I agree with the board.”

Originally, she wanted to see an entirely new school, but she saw the data and agreed that it would be too expensive. And she loves the new plan.

Her favorite part of the plan is how the parking would more than double, from about 330 spaces now to a projected 750 parking spots.

She said her children are in the ninth and 11th grades and the renovations won’t be completed in time for them to see all the benefits. But she has a two-year-old grandchild in Bartlett, and the renovated high school will still be fairly new when she needs it.

“We don’t even care if there’s a tax increase,” she said. “You get what you pay for.”

She added, “And it raises your property values when you have a great school. If it’s good for Bartlett, it’s good for us.”

Wiley Winter is on board too. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Tracye Weir said she loves the proposed changes, although they are much more elaborate than she expected.

Ouida Shephard, who teaches psychology and sociology at the high school, also approved of the Option 5 proposal. Her first preference was to see the ninth-graders on the high school campus, but she understands the practicality of the proposal.
She’s currently looking forward to hearing more about the school’s classrooms.

One of her favorite things will be having a more secure facility with fewer entrances and exits. She likes the proposal’s secure outdoors places where students can relax on school grounds. And she also pointed out another benefit for renovations that let students stay inside during inclement weather: Cleaner floors.

“Whenever the kids are not having to go in and out all day long, like on rainy days, the building is just going to stay cleaner.”

The renovations’ cost seemed reasonable to her, too, particularly in light of all that the work includes. “It is going to totally transform the way that it will look,” she said. “As the sponsor of the Bartlett Ambassadors, I realize how important it is to have a really up-to-date, modern and professional presentation to the community.”

Shephard said Bartlett High has a wonderful student body, and she’s glad the school is going to reflect that quality in its facility.

At an April 4 session of the city board, Scott Fleming of Fleming Architects was on hand to answer any questions from the mayor and aldermen about the high school proposal. Most of the school board members also attended.

Fleming said he’s recommending getting construction management to help budget phases of construction accurately and help with phasing. Once a plan is fully vetted and approved, he would like to see the bids go out next year for all phases of the project to lock them into favorable pricing.

If all goes smoothly, Bartlett students could be enjoying a renovated high school as early as the fall of 2020.

In answering various questions, Fleming said:

  • There is just one small weight room at the high school that has asbestos that must be addressed during renovations.
  • The project proposes to add 17 academic spaces.
  • The option to include portable classrooms is not included in the project’s pricing because it’s not clear yet if they will be needed, depending on the timing.
  • The Option 5 for renovating Bartlett High School should give enough student capacity for the school’s core functions for the foreseeable future.

NEXT WEEK: An interview with Bartlett City Schools Superintendent David Stephens.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138, or