School ‘vestibules,’ artificial turf proposed for 2023-24

Published 8:39 pm Friday, August 19, 2022

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Isle of Wight County Schools is proposing two changes to its five-year capital improvements plan.

The first involves moving up the date for a proposed redesign of all nine schools’ lobbies to include “vestibules.” The term refers to a security feature that entails creating an enclosed area at a school’s main entrance where visitors would need to check in with the school’s office before interior doors allowing access to the rest of the building are unlocked.

The school system received an estimate of $290,000 for the project about 18 months ago, at the time planning to implement the renovation during the 2025-26 school year. The School Board revisited the idea of adding vestibules during its July 28 work session on school security, held in the wake of the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. According to acting Superintendent Dr. Christopher Coleman, the cost of the project has more than tripled to a current estimate of $901,000.

“The longer we wait, the more it will cost,” Coleman said.

In addition to the new cost, the revised capital improvements plan now lists the project as beginning during the 2023-24 school year.

The second revision entails moving up the timeline for replacing Smithfield High School’s grass football field with artificial turf. Originally scheduled for the 2025-26 school year, this too is now proposed to begin during the 2023-24 school year. The project is now projected to cost $2.4 million, up from the original $1.5 million estimate, due to increases in the price of materials.

“Most of the fields that our students are competing on when they go to other divisions are artificial,” said IWCS spokeswoman Lynn Briggs.

Replacing the 1960s-era Westside Elementary with a middle school that would house grades 5-7 is still planned to begin during the 2025-26 school year, though Coleman acknowledged the listed $38 million cost would likely be higher due to inflation.

The new Westside would house roughly 1,100 students. By comparison, the new Hardy Elementary currently under construction is to house just under 900 students. Isle of Wight County supervisors approved a $36.8 million guaranteed maximum price for the Hardy project last year.

Once the School Board votes on the proposed capital improvements plan changes, the plan will go to the county’s Planning Commission and eventually to the supervisors for a final vote.