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Ryann Brooks/Gazette

The Emporia Public Schools Board of Education unanimously voted Wednesday evening to reject all bids for a roofing project at Emporia High School.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Rob Scheib said some concerns arose during the bidding process when it was discovered that the current roof composed of asphalt-saturated roofing membrane that was installed directly to the roof deck contains asbestos. Asbestos is a natural mineral used in many products that is widely known to cause mesothelioma.

Scheib said the presence of asbestos would add roughly 25 percent to the overall project, since it would need to be safely removed. For that reason, RTI Consultants President Mike Gerstner suggested the district reject the bids and then re-bid the project in November. Work would then be completed during the summer of 2020.

“If the existing asbestos roofing membrane was not removed, then it could be difficult to identify moisture and potential needed repairs to the gypsum roof deck,” Gerstner said in a letter to Scheib. “Therefore, it would be our recommendation that consideration be given to re-bidding this project to include the removal of all existing roofing components to the structural roof deck and installing a roof system that does not require the installation of rock ballast to hold the roof system in place.”

The board expects to revisit the matter later in the year.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Kelly Bolin also updated the board on the district’s secure entrances project. The district has started work following the funding from the Kansas Department of Education’s Safe and Secure Schools Grant and is working to implement new mechanisms and procedures to keep all front doors locked while students are in class.

Bolin said she has created a Frequently Asked Questions document to help staff and the community better understand those procedures. It will be distributed to patrons in the coming weeks.

HTK Architects Project Manager Zach Snethen then provided an overview of conceptual renovations and upgrades to the district’s school buildings. HTK completed another walkthrough of Emporia Middle School and Emporia High School this week to get a better idea of what was needed in those buildings. The firm completed walkthroughs of the elementary school buildings over spring break.

“The work that we’re doing right now is still that high-level concept planning so that we can have a scope to find leading into the cost of a bond,” he said, noting that the drawings presented were not construction plans.

Snethen said the two easiest buildings to work with were also the two newest. Riverside and Timmerman Elementary Schools would both see added space for classrooms and student support and the possible relocation of playgrounds at each site. Because of how the schools are laid out, Snethen said it would be fairly easy to add on to the buildings.

Logan Avenue and Village Elementary Schools would see renovated classroom spaces, added parking lots and expanded cafeteria and kitchen areas.

The two smallest elementary schools — William Allen White and Walnut — proved to be the hardest for HTK and the board to conceptualize.

Due to Walnut’s location, HTK determined it would be difficult to construct a more convenient drive for student pick-ups and drop-offs. The cafeteria would potentially be relocated to the southwest area of the building, with a long driveway cutting through the school’s green space with access from Ninth Avenue. Board Member Susan Brinkman questioned the need for cutting through that space, often used by neighborhood children for soccer, rather than looking for other solutions.

“This serves just one purpose and we’ve talked a lot about functional multi-use space,” she said. “Is there a reason why you didn’t look at putting parking in the back, since that’s going to get rid of the green space anyway? ... The space is no longer going to be used as a green space.”

Snethen said that was part of the challenge of renovating older buildings on smaller lots located in residential areas, but since these drawings were still conceptual, HTK could go back and revisit the drawings to account for those concerns.

Maynard Early Childhood Education Center would also see some expansion with more classroom and support space.

EMS and EHS would see more additions as well, with added parking areas for the middle school located near the track.

Brinkman was concerned about the lack of consideration for the arts and music in the plans. With so much emphasis on the gymnasiums and athletic areas, she felt the needs of students who gravitated more toward the arts would be forgotten and neglected.

“Some of them are going to gravitate toward choir and orchestra and band and performing arts and theatre,” she said. “I see that getting squished a lot in this building, but I see a whole lot of gymnasiums.”

Board Member Doug Epp echoed Brinkman’s concerns.

“I think we need to make sure we’re addressing those needs, because that’s what middle school is all about is exploring those things,” he said. “I’m a little bit iffy on just how much we’re going to be putting in for that.”

Board President Mike Crouch said he also understood Brinkman’s concerns, having children at the middle school himself.

“We really only have one auditorium in our district and that’s at the high school, in terms of a true performing arts auditorium,” he said. “I’m not suggesting that we build one the size of the high school’s, but have we thought about the idea that maybe we need a second, smaller auditorium added on to our middle school?”

Snethen said he could see that there was still work to be done and would return for more discussion in two weeks.

The board will next meet at 6 p.m. April 10 at Mary Herbert Education Center.

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