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Sep
26
2022
Yellow Springs School Board

YS Schools Facilities Committee | Ruetschle presents draft floor plans

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Architect Mike Ruetschle presented drafts of potential floor plans for updated facilities at Mills Lawn Elementary, McKinney Middle and YS High schools at a meeting of the district’s Facilities Committee on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Ruetschle’s firm, Ruetschle Architects, has been contracted by the district to work in tandem with its maintenance plan advisor, Motz Engineering. Both firms have worked with the committee to assess the facilities’ renovation, construction and long-term maintenance needs.

The assessments were identified as pivotal to the work of the Facilities Committee when it was formed in March to explore the costs of a phased, permanent-improvement plan to repair and upgrade the district’s buildings, compared with those associated with building all-new facilities.

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Ruetschle and Motz Engineering Vice President Michael Murdock were both initially scheduled to present their findings at the Sept. 1 meeting and the following Sept. 8 regular school board meeting. However, in order to allow time for Ruetschle’s presentation and follow-up questions at both meetings, Murdock will now present at the committee’s next meeting on Thursday, Oct. 6.

In his presentation, Ruetschle identified a number of critical issues across both campuses, many of which have been cited by current committee members and in past assessments made by data-gathering groups preceding facilities levies that failed at local ballots in 2018 and 2021. Those issues include accessibility; the lack of security vestibules and single-entry points for the buildings; a need for expanded kitchen, serving and dining areas; the proposed demolition and replacement of modular buildings; updated bathrooms; and consolidating and reordering office spaces.

Ruetschle said he met with principals and district officials for several work sessions to “listen, learn and walk” through the campuses in order to make his assessments. He also presented early drafts of his proposed building plans to district employees for their input.

“Before the committee and the board saw the plans, I wanted to make sure they were vetted by the professionals who work in the buildings all the time,” Ruetschle said.

The draft plans Ruetschle presented at the meeting included a mixture of deep renovations and new construction, as well as “targeted systems improvements” in areas not slated for significant upgrades. According to Ruetschle, renovation would include replacing the schools’ heating and cooling systems, which have long been pointed out by staff and committee members as being in need of overhaul; and new lighting, flooring, finishes, paint and furniture.

Mills Lawn

Ruetschle presented two potential floor plans for renovations and new construction at Mills Lawn Elementary School: one for the school’s current student configuration of kindergarten through sixth grade, and one for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, wherein sixth-graders would move to McKinney Middle School.

Superintendent Terri Holden pointed out that the possibility of moving sixth grade to the middle school has been touched on at past school board meetings, but stressed that there has been “no public discussion” of the idea.

“However,” she added, “when we do planning like this, it’s important for us to anticipate any possibility that might come down the road.”

Ruetschle opined that “if there’s ever going to be a time to consider” moving sixth-grade classes to the middle school, now would be the time, as the student population would “impact sizes and shapes” of the classrooms. For that reason, the two plans only differ with regard to the sizes of some classrooms and where grade levels would be located.

The majority of deep renovations in Ruetschle’s plans are centered on the school’s older wing, constructed in 1952. Those would include the removal of some walls to expand classroom and hallway space, and the complete replacement of student bathrooms. The school’s main entrance, located in that part of the building, would also receive a new secure vestibule in which to hold visitors, accomplished by adding a second set of doors beyond the existing front doors and a new wall for the front office. Also marked for renovation would be the school’s library, located in the building’s 2002 addition.

In order to accommodate proposed shifts in the use of current space and the demolition of the modular building currently used for band and orchestra, Ruetschle’s plans recommend building a 5,480-square-foot addition at the rear of the school. The build would include three new classrooms for art, band/orchestra and choir.

“I will kind of editorialize and say it’s unusual for an elementary school of 350 students to have two music rooms,” Ruetschle said. “But this is a unique Yellow Springs thing.”

A new corridor running alongside the classrooms is also on the plan, which is intended to be used by students entering from or exiting to waiting buses.

Another added space would be a new kitchen area of 1,060 square feet, which would be built onto the back of the current kitchen. The previous kitchen would then be used as a serving area for student lunches, which are currently served in a hallway outside the joint gymnasium and cafeteria.

McKinney Middle, YS High School

Ruetschle’s draft plan for the middle and high schools would include the removal of an area repeatedly identified as problematic by the schools’ users: the modular buildings that currently house middle school students, known colloquially as “the shoebox.”

The modular buildings would be replaced by a 6,135-square-foot addition that would be built abutting an existing corridor and over a courtyard, both of which Ruetschle identified as “underutilized.” These new classrooms would be used by high school students, with the middle schoolers — who, according to the plan, could include sixth-graders — all solely occupying the second and third floors in the schools’ “tower” portion, which would be heavily renovated.

Building a secure vestibule in the schools’ extant space would be difficult, Ruetschle said, because of the front office’s location across a well-trafficked hallway from the main entrance. To that end, the draft plan includes the construction of a new front office with secure entry, to be built on the other side of the hallway.

Next to the new front office would be two new rooms for choir/theater and band/orchestra. The current music room, known as “the spaceship,” would be demolished. The proposed new office and music/theater rooms would account for an additional 8,700 square feet.

As at Mills Lawn, the plan for the middle and high schools includes deep renovations to restrooms, the library and a number of classrooms. The cafeteria would be extended and a serving area added, according to the plan.

With new construction and demolitions, the square footage at the middle and high schools would be 77,687 square feet — an increase of 6%.

Estimated costs, logistics

Citing a projected price tag of $253 per square foot for new construction given in a 2018 assessment of the schools, Facilities Committee member Jerry Papania asked Ruetschle about what the upgrades might cost. Ruetschle stated that a projected total cost has not been calculated, but estimated new construction at around $450 per square foot and renovations costs of around $300 per square foot.

The News sent Ruetschle a follow-up email aiming to obtain an early estimate of total cost, including demolition, based on the plans, but he declined to comment directly. However, Ruetschle did forward the query on to the district’s Communications Director Corina Denny, who clarified that the “project’s budget will be limited by the district’s debt capacity” — a number that “has not yet been identified.”

She added that the “scope of the work identified as targeted systems improvements” — those areas not slated for deep renovations or demolition — is “in process and not yet known,” but that the costs for these areas is anticipated to be “substantially less than $300” per square foot.

Villager and district parent Naomi Bongorno asked where students would be housed if the proposed upgrades were made, and how long they might take.

Ruetschle replied that those questions would need to be answered further down the line in a “full hands on deck scenario,” but said he imagined the new additions could be built while students are occupying the current buildings. Most such plans, he said, are undertaken over a 15-month period, with renovations to essential spaces like kitchens and bathrooms undertaken during two bookending summers.

McKinney and YSHS Principal Jack Hatert added that, should the district move ahead with the drafted floor plans, it could consult its previously conducted space utilization study to build a master schedule by which to free up spaces for renovation.

“Teachers could travel [between classrooms] — it’s not ideal, but for a year or two we could make that work,” Hatert said.

Following the presentation, Holden stated that the district has had a “really good experience” working with the architect to draft possible improvements.

“It’s not a new building, but if we’re able to get this done, this would completely change the face of the buildings in our district in very positive ways,” she said.

Ruetschle will again present his draft floor plans before the school board Thursday, Sept. 8; the meeting will begin at 6 p.m. to allow time for the full presentation and community comments.

To view Ruetschle’s renderings of the draft plans, visit bit.ly/3ATthnF. To watch the full Facilities Committee meeting, and view past meetings and documents, go to ysschools.org/facilities.

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