Summer was a blur of activity at Bartlett High School, as the estimated $55-60 million in renovations got underway around June 1. The first tasks focused on infrastructure, demolitions, site clearing, dirt work and more.
The project is on budget and on schedule for its projected two- to three-year timeline and has no safety incidents to date, according to Jason Sykes, coordinator of communications, volunteer and outreach for the Bartlett City Schools district.
“I can’t say enough about our great relationship with Fleming, who is the architect, and also the construction companies, Flintco and Linkous,” Sykes said. “They have been extremely attentive. And they understand this is an active campus with 2,000-plus students, 125-135 teachers, visitors, sporting events – I mean, it’s an active high school campus. And so they have done a great job, as best they can, to fence off, cone off, block off areas where students don’t need to be. They’ve built some special ramps to help kids get from one building to the next. They’ve done a really good job. They’re looking at putting in some walkways for when it rains, covered walkways and things like that, to make it a little bit easier on students and faculty as well.”
Crews have demolished the old metal C Building used for vocational-technical classes on the far right of the campus and cleaned off that site. They also demolished the old band building, built in the mid- to late-’60s. (Previously, the school’s old gym was converted to a new band room in a $1 million renovation.)
The back half of the main building has also been torn down – everything past the main lobby’s brick wall with the 1917 marker and the two staircases. That includes the auditorium, the stage, the classrooms behind there and theater storage.
Work also began on the existing back parking lot for students, with repaving, re-striping and construction of new curbs and grassy islands. That lot will eventually be bigger with two entrances.
In general, parking on campus is temporarily reduced during this stage of the project as some lots had to be removed. Crews tore up the asphalt of a small parking lot next to the C Building’s site and a teacher’s parking lot behind the West Building.
Good community partners are helping to ease the parking crunch, Sykes said. The school has its pre-existing partnership with Bartlett United Methodist Church to use their parking spaces and is wrapping up a new partnership to do the same with Waypoint Baptist Church.
Within the next few months of the school year, buses will no longer be using the back parking lot near the football field and will instead park on a new lot at the Bartlett Ninth Grade Academy, Sykes said. That will open up 100+ parking spaces.
Ultimately, the high school renovation project will take the school from having about 450 parking spaces to having more than 800, he said.
Sykes also detailed some infrastructure work done during the summer months: New water suppression and fire hydrants will be needed for the new construction, so summer work included the laying of new water lines toward the back of the campus. New chillers (large air conditioning units) were also installed. The campus was also cleaned up and construction zones were fenced off to protect students before the new school year started.
“They made a ton of progress in those summer months,” he said.
Going forward, crews are preparing to pour slabs and footings for new buildings on the parts of campus where the work won’t interfere with the school day.
Installation of new turf at the football field, originally planned for this summer, was pushed back until the summer of 2019 because the school decided to expand the track surrounding the field from six lanes to eight lanes. The larger size will allow the school to start hosting regional or district tournaments.
Ultimately, the renovated campus is intended to highlight not just the school but also the district and the community as a whole.
The project will winnow down the campus’s current 143 entrances, add 17 new educational spaces, deliver an expanded band hall and a bigger cafeteria, build a new stadium, improve handicapped access to gym facilities, make the library more accessible, improve pedestrian safety, enhance labs, expand fine arts and technical training, create better spaces for special education students, give all students large spaces where they can gather safely, add hundreds more parking spaces and accommodate the high school’s anticipated growth for the foreseeable future.
While the appearance alone isn’t the main driving factor, the renovated high school will have a clearly identifiable front office and an entrance with a “wow” factor, as well as a more cohesive look to the buildings’ facades.
The project will expand and renovate the high school campus to accommodate student body growth up to a total of 2,250 students in grades 10-12, and it will keep the 9th Grade Academy at its current location.
Funding is a joint effort of the city and school district. Back at a June 13 Bartlett city board meeting, the mayor and board of aldermen approved a $0.35 property tax increase, with $0.14 of that amount designated for the high school renovation.
Project funding includes a possible contribution of up to $8 million from the city’s reserves and bond/debt proceeds estimated to generate approximately $44 million. The school district will contribute $6-$10 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment.
The total annual amount to service the 20-year debt is about $3.5 million, with $1 million coming from the school district’s operating budget, $1 million in local option sales tax revenues and $1.5 million from the proposed $0.14 property tax increase.
Students, teachers, staff and administrators seem positive about the high school changes ahead. Sykes said students have been good sports about the construction work and how hallways get a little congested with students figuring out new routes to their classrooms. They understand it’s worth it.
“It’s a really exciting time for the campus at Bartlett High School,” Sykes said. “Just being able to bring the students and the faculty and staff – and really our community – a building and a campus that they can all be proud of. That’s really something we feel very strong about.”