By ALICIA LEONARD
The Walton County School Board (WCSB) held a facilities workshop on Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. to discuss current and existing funded projects, with an eye on future district needs.
Architects with DAG architectural group spoke to the board about a “controlled lobby concept” that would allow more security and control over local school campuses.
Due to each school having very different layouts, each school is proposed to have security improved in different places. One idea across the board for all schools was a “single access point” as described by Walton County School District(WCSD) Facilities Director Mark Gardner.
The “single access point” fits in with a “controlled lobby concept.” The idea being one entrance for incoming pedestrians, in a lobby at the front of each building, with bullet proof glass for the receptionist, an emergency signal button and the ability to allow or stop visitors from entering the building further by remotely opening or locking a second set of main doors leading into the school.
Gardner told the board as a member of the district’s security task committee that was assembled after a recent school shooting, “These secure access points are something we would like to move ahead with.”
Some physical security upgrades already installed are additional fencing for some schools, and a door entrance buzzer system with video cameras installed at a few schools for testing.
Freeport Elementary School is slated to receive some new classroom additions to replace portable classrooms on the campus. Additions of four classrooms on the north wing and two on the south wing are proposed. Plans also include a potential extra two classrooms if deemed necessary. If the plans are approved by the board by March 2014, construction could run five-six months, possibly making the classrooms ready for students in the fall of 2014.
Michelle Doggett spoke to the board about energy conservation and savings. Since August of 2011, the energy conservation plan has saved the district $1.6 million, or almost 32 percent of their energy budget. Doggett told the board, “it’s behavior management. It takes the whole team working together to do this.”
Gardner spoke to the board about plans for a new bus barn located on the north-side of Freeport High School. Gardner said over 55 percent of buses for the district are used in Freeport or south of the bay. A secondary bus barn in Freeport offers savings potential in less gas usage and minor repairs and inspections could be done there, rather than returning the buses back to DeFuniak. The project, if approved by the board in the future would be at least a year out for planning and construction.
Expansions for the parking lot at the Walton Career Development Center was discussed. The goal is to improve parking space at the center.
A track renovation for Paxton High School was shown to the board. One-hundred year old oak trees have undermined the surface of the existing track. The new plans would reorient the track north to south. The project was budgeted the previous year and will be moving forward this year, according to Gardner. Also, new softball netting was added, and dugout improvements. Renovations on one building at the school over summer, including new lighting and carpets, were also discussed.
Technology updates rounded out the workshop. The district completed the install of a new district-wide backbone upgrade, allowing bandwidth to flow to those classrooms needing it most, such as during testing and wireless internet installs for Maude Saunders, Freeport Elementary and Mossy Head. The district is also investigating a potential grant from the state for rural school districts in the amount of $298,824 for telecommunication needs.
The WCSD website has been updated and redesigned. The site is easier to navigate with updated calendars of all meetings for the district and events. Go to http://www.walton.k12.fl.us to see the new design.