2 high schools taking shape

Monday, March 26, 2007
Construction on the Event Center is underway at Jackson High School. (Fred Lynch)

To the casual visitor, the Jackson High School campus looks like one big construction site. Envisioning how it will all connect together is the confusing part.

Construction workers are erecting concrete block walls for the new events center. On the other side of the campus, the concrete walls of a basement storage area have been erected. The walls are the foundation for a new two-story music structure.

But when the project is completed in the next two years, all of the new construction and most of the existing buildings will be connected under one roof. What are now outside walls on existing buildings will become interior hallway walls.

"It's like a mall," said principal Rick McClard, explaining how everything will fit together.

The Jackson project is one of two major high school construction projects in the area. The Kelly School District at Benton, Mo., is building a new high school on its campus.

The $3.69 million project began last spring. It's scheduled for completion by the end of June and will be open for the start of classes this fall.

When finished, Kelly will have a 37,967-square-foot classroom and library building and an attached 8,930-square-foot multipurpose gym/cafeteria.

Kelly and Jackson school officials say their projects will eliminate crowded conditions that currently exist on their campuses.

The Jackson High School campus currently has about 1,200 students in grades 10 through 12.

But the existing campus doesn't have sufficient room for school concerts and other activities that draw large crowds, McClard said.

"For a lot of our programs, we simply run out of room," he said.

The campus can't even accommodate the school prom, McClard said. The prom is held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Cape Girardeau.

That will change when the new events center opens, he said. The center will house a gymnasium for basketball games, but will also include lighting, sound equipment and a portable stage for choral and instrumental performances.

The center is designed to handle a crowd of up to 2,200 people, McClard said.

The new high school is designed to handle as many as 1,800 students in case the district's enrollment continues to grow, he said.

Construction began last fall on the $15.5 million first phase of improvements involving more than 108,000 square feet of new construction. That project includes construction of space for the music program, a new cafeteria and commons area, new art rooms and an events center for choral and instrumental performances.

Penzel Construction of Jackson is the general contractor.

The school district also is proceeding with a $235,992 expansion of the Primary Annex building. Contend Inc. of Cape Girardeau is the contractor on that job which involves expansion of the school building by 15,000 square feet.

By next spring, the district hopes to start construction on the final piece of the project -- a classroom and library building that also will include administrative offices and a new front entrance to the school.

"It's going to be neat when it all falls together," said Dr. Ron Anderson, Jackson schools superintendent.

When finished, Anderson estimates the high school will have about 250,000 square feet under roof.

Jackson's construction project could end up costing about $22 million, Anderson said.

Kelly High School

Don Moore, superintendent of the Kelly school district, stood in the new multipurpose gym/cafeteria that is under construction at the school. (Fred Lynch)

At Kelly High School, hallways are overcrowded with students. Built 50 years ago, the old high school now houses about 350 students.

The entire elementary, middle and high school campus currently serves more than 1,000 students. All of them eat in the elementary school cafeteria.

The new high school will have a multipurpose gym/cafeteria where high school and middle school students will eat.

Walking through the concrete block structure, visitors quickly notice the spacious hallways. "We wanted to make sure the hallways were plenty wide," said Kelly superintendent Don Moore.

The new high school will eliminate the need for three classroom trailers that now house seven elementary, middle and high school classes, Moore said. The district plans to sell those modular units. The old high school will become the middle school, freeing up space for elementary classes, Moore said.

The old high school library will be converted into a superintendent's office and board room. The district's administrative offices are located in a small white house on campus where there's barely enough room for the school board to meet, Moore said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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