HCS Board moves forward on pressing repairs

In a county where aging school buildings are a constant and ever-growing concern, facilities remain a top priority of the Haywood County School Board. On Thursday, March 11, in a special-called meeting, board members and top administrators addressed the school system’s greatest facility concerns and the federal pandemic relief funds that will be used to fix the most immediate needs.

Architect and design firm TLM Associates, Inc. was retained by HCS to perform a facility assessment in order to prioritize which of the aging buildings need the most work and who needs it first.

Haywood County Schools is slated to receive nearly $3.3M in federal funding from the ESSER fund, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, part of the economic stimulus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those funds, HCS has allotted at least $1.2M specifically for pressing facility needs.

Back in 2018, recognizing the need for a plan – a very detailed one – to fully understand the gravity and extent of all facility needs, the school board approved a five-year plan known as the Strategic Planning Priorities. One of those strategic priorities was to “complete a comprehensive assessment of existing infrastructure.” Enter TLM. They were hired to perform a facility assessment, reviewing each campus individually, that clearly defines “the current condition of each building structure, primary components, and site needs along with the operational limitations of the facility relative to the current student population being supported there.”

What did TLM deem most pressing?

Mechanical deficiencies in the kitchens of Anderson, Haywood Elementary and Sunny Hill were top of the list. According to HCS Director of Facilities and Grounds Maintenance Tyler Howell, who presented the TLM findings, each of these school kitchens is currently operating with improper HVAC and ventilation and “need complete kitchen mechanical renovations”.

When asked for a timeline, Howell explained the process which includes plans being drawn, which TLM is already working on, plans being approved by the state fire Marshall’s office, bidding the work, the board approving bids, signing contracts, more board approval, all before construction can begin. He’s hoping that the first step, the drawing of plans, will be complete in 4-6 weeks.

Board members unanimously agreed to move forward. Superintendent Joey Hassell added, “This assessment came at a good tie for Haywood County Schools in that we are already receiving the $1.2M is ESSER funds. None of these proposed [repairs] impact our state or local budget; these are all federal funds.”