Fowler School District held its second open house regarding its Facilities Master Plan on Dec. 20. The event was held at Fowler Middle/High School’s gymnasium and featured mock-ups for each of the three proposed facility master plan scenarios.

Each scenario offered varying degrees of renovations, remodeling and other improvements that would benefit the school district in accessibility, safety, and education accommodation.

The school district utilized a Planning Assistance Team, comprised of parents, teachers and members of the Fowler community, to construct each scenario. Superintendent Alfie Lotrich and School Board Treasurer Mike Thomas were part of the team, although they mostly served as observers and left the majority of the decision making to the team members.

The Planning Assistance Team consulted with RTA Architects, which researched the facilities master plan options, coordinated Planning Assistance Team meetings, and organized the community open houses. Doug Abernathy of RTA Architects attended the Open House on Thursday to take questions about the facility master plan.

Each master plan scenario, tiered by cost and the extent of work required, recommended specific updates or changes to both Fowler Elementary and the Fowler Middle/High School.

Scenario C included the most significant facility changes. If Fowler School District adopted Scenario C, the middle/high school would be moved south of Highway 167, where the elementary school is already located. A new middle/high school would be built directly south of the standing elementary school building. The area north of Highway 167 would become an athletic complex with a larger baseball field to accompany the current track and football field.

“In this option, the committee actually said, ‘Hey, let’s move everything to the south side of the road. Let’s move the entire school to the south side of the road,’” said Abernathy. “Basically everybody ends up on one campus.”

The redesign would call for an extension to the existing elementary school that would connect with the new middle/high school. That extension would consist of a new cafeteria.

Other new facilities would include vocational ag space, a two-story classroom wing, and a new gymnasium, all at the south end of the proposed middle/high school building. “It’s a pretty great opportunity here to get all [students] into one facility, to be efficient with that,” said Abernathy, “and then have all of your extracurricular fields out north. You’d still need a little field area for gym and PE and stuff, and you could do that through the course of the day, but then you would do all the rest up there.”

The athletic complex would also be open to community use when not occupied by student athlete events.

Scenario B doesn’t go as far as to consolidate all grades into one large campus, but it does focus on eliminating the need for students to cross Highway 167 during breakfast and lunch periods. Currently, middle/high school students need to cross the highway in order to access the cafeteria, which is located in the elementary school. Scenario B would facilitate lunch being delivered to those students so they wouldn’t have to cross the road.

“The only thing that’s complicated here is adding gym space so there is a cafeteria on this side of the street,” said Abernathy.

“Instead of going across the street, they stay over here. You bring the food to the students instead of taking the students to the food. A little safer, right?”

The least costly option, Scenario A, would focus mostly on baseline changes with a few renovations to existing infrastructure. Even the least costly and most simple infrastructure changes, however, could improve the school district’s ability to more strongly facilitate special education, playground upgrades and the relocation of administrative offices from the center of each building to positions that overlook primary entrances.

“Special education is changing. It’s constantly evolving in the educational world,” said Abernathy. “There’s all these different needs and criteria that are being implemented in schools, and so those spaces always get impacted in schools because there’s not enough of it, because of the changing dynamic of how special education is administered to schools.”

The Planning Assistance Team identified a need for more classroom space for special education.

“Now, understand, special education is a full spectrum, right?” said Abernathy. “It’s all the way from gifted and talented all the way to kids who need reading intervention, to kids that have fundamental disabilities that need help. Special ed doesn’t denote a certain performance, it just denotes that they’re special.”

In addition to Scenarios A, B and C, the Planning Assistance Team included a set of baseline upgrades that would meet the bare minimum requirements of bringing each school building up to code and American Disabilities Act requirements. Wheelchair accessible ramps, replaced fire alarms and PA systems, renovated exterior drainage to lead water away from building foundations, all are accounted for in the master plan’s baseline guide.

The first of the two Master Plan open houses was held during Fowler’s Hoop Shoot basketball contest.

In total, the Planning Assistance Team has received feedback from about 30 community members. “We are compiling this data right now,” said Abernathy. “I will tell you that most of the feedback that we’ve gotten so far has been positive. Everybody’s had more questions than anything.”

We’ll probably reconvene the group in mid- to late-January to give them the summary of the survey results, and they can think about that. Then we’ll start to talk about, ‘Well what other things do we need to look at?’” said Abernathy.

cburney@ljtdmail.com