Construction to begin this summer on Jackson schools

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Construction crews will descend on Jackson High School by summer as work begins to renovate and expand the campus.

Fueled by a $19.8 million bond issue approved by voters in August, the project will modernize an aging high school campus and put most of it under one roof.

It will provide added classrooms to alleviate overcrowding and room for a growing enrollment, school officials said.

The high school currently has an enrollment of more than 1,100 students in grades 10 through 12.

Superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson said the high school will have room for as many as 1,500 students when the construction work is done.

That will be a major improvement on a campus where crowded classrooms have been common in recent years.

"We were to the point that we were afraid we would be hurt academically," school board member Dr. T. Wayne Lewis said.

School officials said the project will improve security at the high school and make it easier for visitors to find the school office. The numerous buildings and entrances currently make it difficult to police visitors to the campus, officials said.

"We are scattered out up there," said school board president Gerald Adams.

Construction will be phased over three years. As such, students and teachers will have to put up with construction work during the next two school years.

But Lewis predicts high school students will adjust to the construction. "Kids are adaptable," he said.

School administrators and staff met with the architects last fall to finalize improvement plans.

"We would like to dig dirt as soon as school is out," Lewis said.

The project has been a long time in coming. Voters twice rejected finance measures, forcing school officials to scale back the project by some $34,000 square feet and $8 million.

School board members and administrators say they're pleased with the project plans.

The district hired Warner-Nease-Bost Architects of Kansas City to design the new construction and renovations, with assistance from Jackson architect John Dudley.

School board member Mack Illers said the project's complicated by the fact that part of the new construction will tie together existing facilities and house them under one roof.

The design of the glass-and-brick structure includes a domed atrium at the front entrance.

There will be a new library, cafeteria/commons area, events center and classroom building. Other parts of the existing campus will be renovated.

An addition to the auditorium will provided needed space for the music department.

The old agriculture building will be torn down to make room for new classrooms and a library.

The Primary Annex behind the football field will be renovated to house the high school agriculture and industrial arts programs. Kindergarten classes will be moved to Orchard Elementary School.

Remodeling of the Primary Annex could start by late summer, officials said.

Two storage buildings will be torn down at the high school. They will be replaced with construction of a 20,000-square-foot storage building and warehouse behind the bus garage near Orchard Elementary School.

Construction of the warehouse could get under by early spring, school officials said.

The new events center will serve as a basketball arena and a performance space for the music department.

It will seat about 2,200 people. The current field house can seat only about 1,200 people. It's often filled to capacity for basketball games, Anderson said.

The existing gym will remain as a separate building. School officials plan to use it for a practice facility and for recreational youth sports.

The first phase of construction work at the high school should be finished by fall 2007.

School officials hope to finish the second phase -- involving construction of a classroom building and library -- by fall 2008.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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