Palestine-Wheatley Selects Site for New School

The Palestine-Wheatley School Board on Monday selected a site just east of the high school in Palestine as the new home for the district's elementary school.

In September, school district patrons approved a 7.9 mill increase request from the district for the construction of a new facility. Last night, district superintendent Carroll Purtle presented the board with three site options for the new facility, two of those in Palestine and the third option in Wheatley. Board members voted 5-to-1, with board member Gary Caldwell voting against the site and board member Jared Parker absent, on the second site presented to the board.

The first site, which was north of the high school and behind the football field, would have required the district to demolish its existing concession stand in order to build the facility. The projected cost for the facility at that site would have been $4,991,065 and was the smallest of the three proposed sites.

The third site, located on property that housed the Palestine-Wheatley Middle School football field in Wheatley, was the largest of the three sites and would have cost the district $5,711,593 for construction. According to Purtle, more than 3,000 square feet of the additional space in the facility would have been for a cafeteria, which was not necessary at either of the Palestine sites. A letter from Fowler Garey Architects also pointed out that the playground would have to be moved at the Wheatley site and that the size of the site could make the north exterior wall a fire wall, which would require fire-rated openings and construction.

"The Wheatley site is plenty long enough for us to put the building in there, the problem is that it is also narrow and you have property on that north side which would require us to put in a fire wall because there's property that comes right up to us there. Although there's not a house there right now, we'd still have to do the fire wall in the event that the property owner decided to put a residence there in the future," said Purtle.

There would also be additional costs associated with the cafeteria in Wheatley, with Purtle saying that new kitchen equipment would have to be purchased, with the exception of a walk-in cooler and freezer at the existing elementary school. Purtle told board members that the cafetorium at PWHS would be used for all students if either of the Palestine sites was selected. The Wheatley site would also require the district to purchase buses for transporting students from Palestine.

The site selected by board members will locate the facility on property owned by the district to the east of the high school. The only issue listed by Fowler Garey in its handout surrounded the relocation of the student parking lot. Purtle told board members the student parking lot would be moved to the area in front of the high school. Purtle said there will also be some site preparation required as construction crews will have to build up an area near the property. The proposed cost for the facility is listed at $5,203,493 and the facility will be approximately 34,000 square feet.

Caldwell asked what it was going to cost the district to demolish the existing elementary school. Purtle said it would be his recommendation not to demolish any of the buildings at the school.

"My recommendation would be that you not knock anything down. If you start that you're going to get into some asbestos issues. My suggestion would be that you sell the buildings to people who might have a use for them and can move them. We've got some portable buildings over there, and the I'm pretty sure some of the hunting clubs or individuals who like to dress out meat would be interested in buying the freezers and walk-in cooler that we have," said Purtle.

Purtle told board members that following the next phase of the project he should be able to present drawings of the proposed facility.

In other business, board members approved the resignation of Dena French as the special education para pro at Palestine-Wheatley Middle School and accepted a recommendation to hire Becky Dunn to fill the position.

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