ELKIN — Putting in a new gym and renovating another will cost Surry County more than $9 million.
The county Board of Commissioners already had given its approval to plans for a new gym, but additional expenses were mentioned at Monday’s meeting that pushes the total nearly a million dollars higher than expected.
In a memo to the board, County Manager Chris Knopf reminded the board that it had previously approved $393,750 for the design phase, then $7,763,713 for the construction of a new gym at Elkin High School.
At Monday’s meeting held there at Elkin High School, the board learned that the school system intends to keep the old gym, but renovate it to be newer and in compliance with current ADA and Title IX regulations. This extra work would cost an estimated $910,222; with a 5-percent contingency, this would be almost $956,000.
While Elkin has one of the nicest tennis facilities around, the school district is gym-poor. The county schools (North Surry, East Surry and Surry Central) all have a regular gym and then a field house with a second gym and a weight room area. Mount Airy has its regular gym as well as the former junior high gym next door.
For Elkin, the middle school and high school have been struggling to share one facility. For example, in the winter there are boys and girls varsity basketball, boys and girls JV basketball, middle school boys and girls basketball, and high school and middle school wrestling. It’s tough enough just to schedule home events in the gym, much less practice time.
Dr. Myra Cox, Elkin school superintendent, said the wrestlers have been going to the elementary school to practice for years.
Frank Williams, president of Pinnacle Architecture, spoke of the challenges of building on the lot, especially the steep slope of the land.
It seems like Mount Airy and Elkin tried to find hills to build their schools on, he joked.
Dr. Jim Watson, a retired superintendent, spoke as a consultant to Pinnacle. He noted that ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act, making school facilities accessible to students with special needs such as a wheelchair. Title IX refers to treating girls’ sports equal to boys’ sports.
Watson, who said his own school district did $120 million in improvements and construction in his tenure, noted that the restrooms and concession stands in the current gym are downstairs from the playing surface.
This is a hardship on any handicapped students as well as elderly relative who may attend sporting events.
Williams said he wants to remove barriers for these folks to reach all facilities, and he thinks this may get rid of 99 percent of the problems the campus currently has.
The solutions include building an elevator at two locations and a four-foot wheelchair lift in one place for a short flight of stairs would be located.
A project like this is fun for an architect to design because of the complexity, said Williams, but it will take a qualified contractor to grasp the scope of the work.
Once the two men had explained the project, the commissioners asked some questions. One board member asked about Elkin’s needs for the future.
Watson said that a lot of schools are trying to limit how much time children are out in the open now. There has been a push for increased security and safety protocols inside the schools, but the outside is still a danger.
With the middle school next door to the high school, there will continue to be kids moving back and forth outdoors to reach the gym, he said. The schools and the county board can decide whether they consider that an issue.
Williams said he gave a much more detailed presentation last month, including a slide show. For coverage of that meeting, see www.elkintribune.com.
The commissioners asked Knopf how this additional funding matches up with the county’s plans for a $30 million bond issuance. Knopf said projects earmarked so far would account for about $28.5 million, so this $910,000 increase would put the total around $29.4 million, so still under the threshold.
The board approved the increase.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.