Jackson fine arts complex done, but $20 million school construction project three months behind schedule

Friday, January 16, 2009
With the current cafeteria being crowded, a group of mainly juniors and seniors eat lunch Thursday in the hallway of B Building at Jackson High School. The new cafeteria is not yet finished.

Evan Henry said he does not miss the days when the Jackson High School choir ensembles sometimes practiced in the bathrooms.

"It wasn't much fun," he said. "They didn't smell very good, either."

The new fine arts complex was one of the first completed projects in a $20 million multiphase expansion at the high school to ease overcrowding.

The complex has been open for almost four months, and Henry, 18, said he is glad to finish his senior year in the new facility.

In the old room, he "felt like I was sitting in a matchbox," he said.

KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Stan Haertling, left, and Tracy Messmer color the Jackson High School common area with acid staining Thursday morning.

Christy Shinn, a choir director, said the fine arts complex is starting to feel like home after a hectic move in late September.

"Sometimes I walk in and say 'Is this really ours?'" she said.

The choir and band practice rooms are part of the first phase of the project, which has been delayed by bad weather. High School principal Vince Powell said construction is three months behind schedule but still on budget.

He said the workers are putting the finishing touches on the gym and cafeteria area. The 2,200-capacity gym includes an indoor rubberized track and a new weight room.

The cafeteria will hold 430 students, he said. It will connect the gym, fine arts complex and other classrooms together so students will not have to go outside to switch classes.

"That will be a big help safetywise," Powell said.

The school ran into problems in June when contractors were at odds over the gym roof. It was not kept dry enough during heavy spring rainfall. Part of the roof deteriorated, and a replacement was estimated at a half-million dollars.

The legalities were sorted out by the contractors and subcontractors, Powell said.

"Our part on that is done," Powell said. "We have a new roof."

The renovated agriculture and industrial technology building will be completed in five to six weeks, he said. It will also include two new shop classrooms.

After those classes move into the renovated building, the second phase of construction will begin, Powell said. The current building, which also held music classes, will be torn down and replaced with a three-story building to house the library, administrative offices, and the school newspaper among others.

Shinn said the students appreciate the new music classrooms more because they saw the disadvantage of their older facilities.

Powell said the students have been cooperative throughout the construction process. Vandalism and tardiness have not been a problem because the students share their high school with contractors, he said.

"I'm really proud of the kids for handling it so well," he said. "They've really taken it all in stride."

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