New arts complex opens at Jackson High School

Saturday, September 27, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ Christy Shinn directs the women's choir in the new fine arts complex Friday at Jackson High School.

Tiles gleam and the smell of fresh paint permeates Jackson High School's fine arts complex. Some boxes wait to be unpacked and supplies are admittedly not all in order, but teachers and students are eagerly using their new space, which opened this week.

"Everything is just so white and bright and clean and organized-looking and safe," said Alyssa Kimbel, a senior.

The complex is the first space to open in a multiphased project that will add more than 100,000 square feet to the school and cost more than $20 million. Construction crews will now turn their focus to finishing a new cafeteria and events center.

Kimbel remembers when choir members had to practice in bathroom stalls, closets and storage rooms last year because of a lack of space. The choir room could become so crowded with people and backpacks it was dangerous, she said.

"Now I have my piano scooted back and I can step away and really see and hear the class," said Christy Shinn, a choir director.

The fine arts complex consists of a choir room, a band room, offices and multiple practice rooms.

The band room is nearly half the length of a football field. Black tiles mark the white floor every yard so marching band members can practice inside during inclement weather. Storage lockers for instruments line the walls and three large windows let in natural light. About 180 students participate in the band, and for the first time they can all practice together.

FRED LYNCH ~ Christy Shinn directs the women's choir in the new Fine Arts Complex Friday at Jackson High School.

"A lot of times before the first time they would get together and practice was at a competition," said principal Vince Powell.

Acoustics are much improved, he said. An extra room is dedicated for making recordings for contests. Curtains can be moved to adjust sound quality.

In the choir room Friday, members practiced for today's all-district auditions. Voices rose as they practiced their scales, moving quicker and quicker. Four recording mikes dangled from the ceiling.

"Even though we're still in boxes and are not organized, we're using the space to get ready for tomorrow," Shinn said.

Now that the music department is out of the "B" building, only the agricultural and industrial arts departments remain. They will move to the old primary annex in November. The "B" building will be torn down and rebuilt for additional classroom space. After the construction, much of the once-separate campus will be connected under one roof.

Bad weather has plagued the project, which began about two years ago. The events center and fine arts complex were supposed to be open by the start of school. Powell said he does not know when the events center will be complete. Crews are currently finishing electrical and plumbing work, he said.

"We've come so far I can't remember when this was just a parking lot," he said, standing in the future cafeteria.

335-6611, extension 123

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