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Planning stage under way for Cartmell renovation

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Imagine being able to design your own school – listing everything you might want, from video-conferencing capability to a gymnasium that doesn’t double as a cafeteria and auditorium.

That’s the task at hand for a building committee comprised of school administrators and teachers planning the renovation of Cartmell Elementary School. The committee held its first meeting at the school Monday, Jan. 26.

Ronald Murrell Jr., project manager with RossTarrant Architects encouraged the committee to think of everything students and teachers might need for existing and future programs and how they want the building to look when it’s completed.

While the district’s budget for the project will likely limit the final product, “we don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to do something new” in designing the school, Murrell said.

Superintendent Lisa James said the Carroll County Board of Education has not yet set a dollar amount for the project, but said the district’s bonding potential is “right around $6 million.”

James said Cartmell has been near the top of the district’s facilities plan for some time. The project is needed because of overcrowding at Cartmell, which houses students in Head Start and grades four and five, and Kathryn Winn Primmary, which houses children in kindergarten through third grade.

The committee is looking to reconfigure the two schools, moving the third grade to Cartmell and moving the Head Start program to Winn.

With that in mind, Murrell handed out a questionnaire to get the committee thinking about how many computer labs, science labs and other specialized rooms the school will need to support three grades.

One of the ideas batted around was increasing the size of the media center/library and moving it toward the front entrance of the building, and giving it its own entrance and restroom facilities.

The media center, as well as the “cafetorium” often are used in the evenings by the community, so keeping those areas self-contained would be a significant security measure.

In thinking of computer and science labs, Murrell cautioned the panel to keep in mind how many classes will be using those spaces.

“We don’t want to build an area that’s only used two periods a day,” he said.

Murrell encouraged using “green” building techniques, particularly with windows and natural lighting. He said studies show natural sunlight in classrooms boosts test scores and attendance of both students and staff.

Oak said one important need is to eliminate a traffic pattern that routes cars between the school and the playground during drop-off in the morning and pick-up in the afternoon.

He also would like to see a space for staff meetings and a better space for the Family Ties Resource Center that’s based at the school.

James said that in addition to separating the gym from the cafeteria, she also would like to see a classroom built off of the stage – wherever it ends up – for music classes.

“We’re making a big push for fine arts in the district,” she said. “We want to go to the next level in arts and humanities, as well.”

Murrell suggested the panel plan field trips to some of the new schools that have been built recently in other counties, including Gallatin and Oldham.

The committee will be meeting at the school weekly to push through the planning stage and get school board and state Department of Education approvals in place so construction can begin as soon as possible.

In a timeline handed out to panel members, Murrell estimates that construction might begin next January and be completed in April 2011.

Once the committee finishes planning the Cartmell renovation, another panel will be formed to start the process for Winn, James said.

The committee will meet again at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2.

James said she also plans to have at least one forum to allow community members a chance to voice opinions over any plans developed by the committee. No dates for such a community meeting have been set yet.