The middle school is projected to be an $8 million project when it is completed.
“This is the first of a series of forums to keep the public informed as we move step by step along towards creating a junior high for the Webster County Schools,” said Superintendent James Kemp.
First on the agenda was Scott Noel, the engineer who is working to design the new middle school.
“Currently there about 300 middle school kids that we have to worry about relocating” Noel said. “The existing building, which is virtually empty, is a good place to start.”
Noel broke the construction of the middle school down into four phases. The first phase, scheduled to be completed in time for middle school students to attend the 2013 fall semester, will mainly be a remodel an existing wing of the high school, commonly referred to as the “math hall.” This section of the school was damaged by a tornado several years ago, and as Noel said is almost empty.
By the start of the next school year there will be nine classrooms available. Middle School and High School students will share a cafeteria, music room and the library/media center.
“With the funding that is available right now, the district can do just enough work to get students in this building,” Noel said. He said that the old media center will be renovated into an administrative suit and a main entrance for the middle school.
“We will be able to utilize a lot of the current spaces,” Noel explained. “The only thing we’ll have to add in order to teach school is virtually nothing, other than the fact that we’ll be adding the bus canopy (outside the main entrance).”
Of the $4.7 million allocated by the school board for phase one, $2.5 million will pay for a new HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system for the middle school.
Phase two of the project will be the construction of a new cafeteria and restrooms, which will be located in the now vacant area between the end of the “math hall” and the auxiliary gym.
The third phase will see the construction of a new media center and a computer lab.
Phase four, the final phase, will include the contraction of a music room and resource classrooms for the middle school. Also at the point the middle school hall will be physically separated from the high school, except for at the access point to the auxiliary gym.
“I have a question concerning phase one and the restroom,” said Trina Warford, the parent of a future WCMS student. “According to my calculations there will be approximately 299 students, and the restrooms existing now in that area cannot possibly handle 300 students. You mentioned that it will be made handicap accessible, but will there be addition stalls or constructions?”
“Right now there are two restrooms with a janitor’s closet between them,” said Noel. “We’ll be sacrificing the janitor’s closet on a temporary basis to gain that extra space we will need.”
He went on to say that if funding is available, it might be possible to construct the hallway and restrooms planned for Phase Two during Phase One.
Several parents voiced concern that the district was rushing into opening the middle school, suggesting that it might be better to wait until possibly even Phase Two to consider moving students.
“My concern as a parent is that if we don’t go ahead and move the kids, at the schools that are still growing, we’ll be buying portables and different things and wasting money,” said Kim Dunville, a Sebree parent. “Portables are expensive.”
James Kemp explained that getting portables for even a year would cost as much as construction of a permanent classroom.
“The Department of Education won’t allow a district to bond money and not utilize it,” Scott Noel added. “If it takes five years to complete a project, by the time you move students into it, it’s almost time to remodel. So the Department of Education won’t allow you to bond and build.”
Sebree Principal Aaron Collins explained the creation of four committees to help guide the middle school’s development. They will be: Steering; Academic Performance; Learning Environment; and Efficiency.
Each will be made up of faculty, staff and parents, and each group will visit area middle schools to see how they operate.
“We’re going to be asking for nominations for parents on the committees,” said Collins, noting that nominations forms have already been sent home with 6th and 7th grade students.
WCHS Principal Tim Roy addressed one of the major concerns of middle school parents: the safety and separation of the two schools.
Roy indicated the door that separates the math hall from the high school.
“My proposal is that we replace this door with a controlled access door,” he said. “On the high school side of the door, my proposal would be that we have a camera that is accessible to the front office of the middle school, so that if anyone has a reason (to go to the middle school) they can buzz the office or swipe their security card.”
He went on to explain that it would be necessary to stagger the starting and ending time of classes to keep students from being in the hallways at the same time.
“Part three of this plan work much the way it does with Dixon Elementary,” Roy said. “Whenever students come into the high school, they would have to be led by a faculty member. That’s what we expect with Dixon, and it works well. Until we have a middle school principal, it’s hard to speak beyond that.”
Following the meeting, Scott Noel and Principal Roy gave interested parents a tour of the middle school hall.
J-E News Editor
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