Nearly two years after announcing plans to begin work on a new Valdosta High School, the Valdosta Board of Education and architects Altman & Barrett sat down with The Times to discuss the project.
Two years ago, the board purchased land which will house the new school. In total, the plot is right at 185 acres, located at Perimeter Road and Park Avenue, a whopping 122 acres larger than the current high school’s location. The new building will be approximately 425,000 square feet, just a little more than 125,000 square feet more than the old high school.
Altman & Barrett created the original master plan more than a year ago. Since, many changes have been made to the plan.
“We have spent 60 or 70 hours meeting with school personnel to hear their opinions, recommendations and needs. We’ve been bringing in vocational teachers, core class teachers, coaches, administrators, everyone to hear what they feel the new campus needs,” said Walter Altman of Altman & Barrett.
So far the new campus plans include a ninth-grade academy and a career academy, which will focus on vocational programs, to be located on site. A fine arts building and an athletic complex will be included.
“It’s going to be a lot like a college campus,” explained Altman.
In addition to an athletic complex, the new campus is expected to have a multi-sport indoor practice facility, baseball and softball fields, a track field, tennis courts and a green house.
Currently, no decision has been made on whether a football stadium will be built on the new campus, though it was included in the master plan. It was included in the original master plan to ensure that there was room for a stadium if desired in the future.
“We wanted to make sure that we had enough land to last future generations. It makes sense to have everything on one site and it made sense to look at what the potential for the the property could be,” explained City School Superintendent Martin E. Roesch.
Both the board and Altman & Barrett want the new high school to be welcoming to students. They plan to make the new cafeteria similar to a food court and offer an outdoor eating area. The new facility will have point to point wireless Internet
similar to the new Pinevale Elementary School. The building will be able to adapt to developing technology.
The project is estimated to cost somewhere around $80-$83 million; however, a final cost will not be known until a construction manager is selected, a process that the school board plans to begin soon.
As for the current VHS facility, the school board plans to utilize the space.
“The current facility will be used as a school in some capacity, whether it will be an elementary or middle school is currently in conversation. We know we need another elementary school. We will definitely be repurposing the building. We will also leave the Performing Arts Center where it is and continue to use it,” said Roesch.
The board expects the design portion of the project to be completed by January 2016, a total projected design time of 22 months. Construction is expected to begin in January 2016 and be completed by June 2018. The board plans for students to begin attending the new high school in August 2018.
Roesch said, “There is a lot of positive energy surrounding this project. I would like to compliment the board for having the vision of this project. They are very excited. We all are very excited. This is a huge undertaking, but without the vision of the board we wouldn’t be where we are.”
The master plan continues changing as recommendations and requests are made by school staff and administrators. While athletics are being taken into consideration, the superintendent wants the community to know that, “academics are our first consideration.” The superintendent and Altman said the main school building, which will house all of the academic classes, is the main focus of their plans.
So far topographical and boundary surveys have been conducted and the Department of Transportation has been contacted regarding ingress and egress traffic. While these steps might seem small, they are huge leaps towards a positive final result. More changes are expected and many more checkpoints must occur before construction begins.