Schematics for new GES building approved
— The Caroline County Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 7, approved schematic drawings for the new Greensboro Elementary School, the next step toward opening the school in 2021.
Peter Winebrenner, principal of the Education Studio at Hord Coplan Macht, the project’s architectural firm, said the schematics will now be sent to the state’s Public School Construction Board for approval.
Once the state approves the schematics, the firm will begin work on the design development, which must be to delivered to the state for approval by Nov. 1 to stay on track for construction groundbreaking in spring 2019.
Winebrenner led the Board of Education through a Powerpoint presentation showing a floor plan and artists’ renderings of several views of the new school, to be built behind the existing school on land owned by the school system.
The new school will occupy a smaller footprint, yet be substantially larger inside, growing from 72,000 to 94,500 square feet, thanks to a two-story design in the section of the building housing classrooms.
Classroom space will increase from 33,100 square feet in the current building to 37,500 square feet in the new one, to relieve the school’s overcrowding issues that made the new school necessary.
Five of those rooms will be “flex” classrooms, Winebrenner said, which can be converted to different grade levels from year to year as needed.
The design features four distinct sections, each with a pitched roof, which are easier to maintain than the flat roofs traditionally used on school buildings, and create space to store mechanicals underneath, Winebrenner said.
The schematics showed different colors for the structures housing the classrooms and those housing the new gymnasium and cafeteria, to further break up the design, Winebrenner said.
The cafeteria and gymnasium structures will have separate entrances, which will allow outside groups to use those spaces after school hours, he said.
The schematic also showed the sections holding the classrooms canted at an angle, to better capture natural light from the north, Winebrenner said, which makes it easier to manage heat gain from sunlight.
Board of Education member Tolbert Rowe said he was not confident people would accept that explanation when they asked why part of the school was offset at an angle.
“It will stand out in a small community like Greensboro, and I’m not sure explaining we tilted it 15 to 20 degrees to get to true north will cut it,” Rowe said.
Board member Kathy Dill disagreed, saying she thought the design looked modern and creative.
“It looks 21st century,” Dill said. “I just don’t want it to look like a prison.”
Winebrenner said the slightly angled classroom section was not a hill the architecture firm would die on as it moves into the design development phase.
“We’re willing to take all opinions into account,” he said.
Board member James Newcomb said he thought the school’s twostory design and pitched roofs would get more attention, in a county where most schools are still a single story with a flat roof.
Winebrenner said the school will be much farther back from the road than the current school.
“The height helps visually, to draw the eye,” he said.
The design also allows for growth if needed, Winebrenner said. More classrooms could be built above the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten rooms, or added on to either end of the section holding classrooms.
Once the new school is open and the old one is demolished, a new bus loop and parking lot will be built as well, Winebrenner said.
The estimated cost of the school is $47.8 million, Winebrenner said, allowing for expected cost increases during construction over the next few years.
As of now, the state is expected to contribute $26.6 million, with a local share of $21.2 million.
Rowe said he was concerned the estimate should expect construction costs to go higher, particularly in light of proposed tariffs on some materials.
Winebrenner agreed it was possible.
“The construction market is inflated right now,” Winebrenner said. “There’s a lot of work and not enough of a work force. Materials will cost more too for a variety of reasons.”
Milton Nagel, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said the school system would be working hard over the next several months to get the Public School Construction Board to recognize all five “flex” classrooms, instead of only one, and several classrooms for English language learner students in its formula for figuring out how much the state should contribute to the project. That would in turn lower the local cost.
This artist’s rendering shared at the Caroline County Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday, Aug. 7, shows the proposed new Greensboro Elementary School.