ES School Board, HDC meet to discuss high school
EUREKA SPRINGS -- In the first of what will be more than one meeting, the Eureka Springs School Board met with the Historic District Commission Wednesday to discuss the high school construction project and the historical significance of the existing school buildings.
Meeting at the high school campus with them were Charlie and Laura Morrison of Morrison Architecture and project engineer Andrew Mincks of Kinko Construction.
Laura Morrison outlined the three options available for dealing with an aging and inadequate high school.
"You can renovate, you can build a new school at this location or you can find another site and build a new school."
The main and 200-wing buildings were opened for school on Sept. 16, 1951, which makes them "contributing" (50 years or older) structures in the historic district, Laura said. It was designed by T. Ewing Shelton of Fayetteville.
"He did a lot of buildings around here," said Charlie Morrison, "the Baxter County Courthouse and two Fayetteville schools."
He also designed the Madison County Courthouse.
At the time the school was built, it was in compliance with state codes.
Trying to renovate it to bring it up to today's codes would likely cost more than building an entirely new building, Charlie pointed out.
One major problem is the extremely low insulation value, partially the fault of the glass blocks used as an outside wall.
"The glass blocks are a big feature of his design," Charlie said, "but they have a 1.6 R-value."The school district had them painted at one point to cut down on the heat and glare coming in.
The glass block walls are load-bearing and are pinching the windows.
"There is asbestos in the main floor and a wood frame roof with a wood deck -- these are no longer allowed by code," Charlie added.
He said the asbestos floor tiles in the main building are not a problem as long as the asbestos remains encapsulated in the tile.
A major impediment to even considering renovation as an option is that the architectural drawings for the main building are missing, although they do have the 1960s drawings of the other buildings.
"For us to do a true structural analysis, we may have to take out every ceiling unless we can find drawings."
He said the building has 2-foot by 10-foot bar joists, unlike other schools Shelton built.
Laura said in today's standards, the building is too big for the site and doesn't meet fire codes, as it does not have a sprinkler system or proper firewalls.
"We'd have to build a building inside this building," Charlie said, "walls inside the walls. The classrooms are already too small."
The 100 wing corridor is 43 feet long and ends in a wall, Charlie noted, and in today's standards, if it's more than 20 feet long, it has to have a fire exit.
Laura noted the building is not functional for today's standards.
"HDC is concerned about the outside," said Commissioner Richard Grinnell. "You can do all you want inside."
"What would make this building so important that it would be worth keeping?" asked Mincks.
"It just has to be old," Grinnell replied. "If the use changes, that doesn't change the historic status."
He said the HDC can't really say whether they "can let you do anything to the outside of the building until we see some plans."
He said that even though the HDC has guidelines, projects are considered on a case-by-case basis.
The 300 wing buildings, which house the gym, the EAST lab and the building trades class, were built in 1962. In three years, they will reach age 50 and become contributing to the historic district as well.
"The gym can't handle a new roof without lateral support," Charlie said. "And it will never be energy efficient."
He said an entire new high school could be built on the existing site, although one or more of the buildings may have to have more than one story.
The Morrisons hope to wrap up Phase I of the master plan, the assessment of the existing campus, by the end of May. Phase II will look at options for either renovation or new construction, along with associated costs.
They will give a presentation at the HDC's public meeting on May 20 at 6 p.m. at the courthouse and are planning to give presentations to local organizations in the community in the near future.