W-JCC Board gets first look at Lafayette gym

JAMES CITY - After months of talk about a new auxiliary gym at Lafayette High School, the community got a first glimpse at what that gym may look like at Tuesday night's Williamsburg-James City County School Board Meeting.

Jack Hasten from HBA Architecture Interior Design gave the board an update on the gym's design process.

The design presented by Hasten featured a gym with a standard-size basketball court, 22-foot high ceilings, 600 square feet of storage space, telescoping bleachers for 200 people, a scoreboard, batting cages and boys and girls restrooms.

Alan Robertson, the district’s facilities management coordinator, said the design was the result of input from coaches, parents and administrators in the Lafayette community.

“Nothing came up at the (design) committee meeting that we said no to,” Robertson said.

Senior Director for Operations Marcellus Snipes  said the budget for the project had not changed since last meeting, when the board passed its recommendation for the year-end spending plan.

In September school officials reported increasing complexities during the design process. The original financial contribution from the school district increased from $1 million to $1.67 million, pending the approval of the school's year-end spending plan.

Hasten said sewage lines run adjacent to the school, so the design committee decided to place the gym 40 feet from the school with a covered walkway running from the main building to the gym. Hasten said that decision cut down on costs.

Board Chairman Jim Kelly questioned the need for bleachers in the auxiliary gym, pointing out that the other auxiliary gyms in the district do not have bleachers.

Snipes said the design committee plans on using the gym for wrestling matches and other events that would benefit from bleachers.

The equity between the gym at Lafayette and other gyms in the district has been a sensitive issue throughout the process.  When the board hired HBA to be the design firm this summer, advocates were concerned the firm would replicate the auxiliary gym at Jamestown, which has no bleachers and a narrow 4-foot sideline between the court and the wall.

After the meeting, Kathy Woollum said she feels like the district has responded to the specific needs of the Lafayette community.

“The design team process has been productive and collaborative,” Woollum said. “So far, so good.”

Woollum said the school district had welcomed the input of the athletic boosters, who have championed the auxiliary gym since last fall. Woollum could not think of anything specific the boosters had wanted in the gym that did not make it into the design.  And she said she was hopeful the project would stay on schedule.

Lafayette's needs dominated the opening of Tuesday night's meeting as well. 

Students, coaches and parents in the Lafayette community spoke during a public comment period for the 2016-17 Capital Improvement Plan.

All seven of the speakers made a case for capital improvements to the Lafayette's facility as the board begins working on the CIP process.

The advocates want a walkway from Lafayette to the Warhill Sports Complex. The walkway has been in and out of the CIP for several years. It was approved by the school board last year, but at an estimated cost of $1.17 million, it was not included in the final CIP approved by the James City supervisors last spring.  

The advocates described the swamp student athletes at Lafayette walk through to reach the Warhill Sports Complex. Several students said they had fallen into the swamp and ruined their shoes.  

"The conditions are deplorable," said Nash McDowell, a sophomore field hockey player at Lafayette. 

McDowell said she had seen several of her teammates fall down the steep hill students descend to get to the swamp. She also raised concerns about the safety of having to travel through the swamp after practice ended in the evening. 

Read more in Saturday's Virginia Gazette.

McKinnon can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341. 

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