Kerr’s warts exposed for city School Board
Posted: November 3, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — The city School Board saw firsthand Friday the challenges that an aging and crowded John Kerr Elementary School presents for the division.
The board tours all six of the division’s schools during the year, and on Friday set out to learn more about the instruction and learning space at Kerr.
The school is more than 40 years old, and has 358 students occupying a space designed for up to 304. According to officials, the roof, doors, windows, fire pump and heating/air conditioning systems are reaching the end of their usable lives.
Hurricane Sandy, which swept through the region this week, seemed to highlight the building’s woes.
“Monday and Tuesday were just harrowing,” Principal Nan Bryant told the board Friday. “And I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that.”
The hurricane system, which produced wind gusts of up to 60 mph in the area, caused leaks in the roof, which officials have previously said needs to be replaced, and the windows.
With water pouring in through the library, books had to be removed from the tops of the shelves and water-catching trash cans were placed and emptied throughout the building after some ceiling tiles collapsed. More than 100 gallons of water was collected by the end of the storm.
“We love our school, but if we continue here for four or five more years, we have to do something about the roof,” said Bryant.
A new John Kerr was in the works to be built by 2014, but was delayed until funding is made available in 2015. The 2017 school year likely would be the earliest Kerr students could start in a new facility.
According to the Virginia-based architectural firm of Grimm and Parker, the school — which has 46,613 square feet — has limited space in its cafeteria, gym and library; does not meet all Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines (it has no elevators); has few windows; has playground security issues; has conflicts between buses and cars in the drop-off area; and has an open floor plan without distinct classrooms and no acoustical separation.
Kevin McKew, executive director of the school system, said during the tour that officials have deferred major renovation projects on the school because they believed a new one would come sooner than 2017.
“This is something the board really is going to take a look at,” he said.
Officials are also struggling to find enough room.
“We are stretched to the max in terms of space as well,” Bryant said.
Testing periods can be a challenge, since there are just two spaces available in the school that are isolated from noise.
“You can see we’re trying to use every available space to make it work,” said lead teacher Michelle Myers.
As capacity becomes more of an issue, staff members will consider converting the school’s last remaining available spaces into classrooms, which could detract from other activities such as testing, staff development and special programs.
“It’s going to feel really crowded when we start using those spaces,” Bryant said.
McKew said modular classrooms could potentially be added to Kerr to alleviate overcrowding. He also wondered out loud what the potential of the students could be if the building “facilitated instruction instead of obstructing it.”
“What is the true potential if it was in a 21st century building?” he asked.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com