READY TO GO: TCS to open new middle school in AugustPublished 10:22pm Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Even the rainfall couldn’t dampen the spirits of Dr. Lee Hicks on Tuesday afternoon.
“Look at that,” he said as he walked across the campus at Charles Henderson Middle School. “Even with all this rain. We’re dry.”
Hicks was guiding a tour of the new middle school building, the final project completed under the Troy City Schools $15 million capital improvement effort started more than four years ago.
“This is definitely the biggest project,” Hicks said of the more than $7 million spent to create a 20 new classrooms, a new cafeteria, reroute traffic and renovate and upgrade the gym, band hall and science labs on the campus. “This is really what started the entire capital improvement project.”
Work on the project began the day after classes ended in May 2013, and furniture is expected to arrive early next week. Officials said teachers may begin moving into their classrooms by late next week. The middle school will be home to some 350 seventh- and eighth-graders.
As maintenance employees worked to put the finishing touches on classrooms and facilities Tuesday, Hicks and Principal Aaron Brown walked through the bright wide hallways, eager to showcase the new structure.
“I’ve been to several middle schools but few compare when you look at the quality put into this building,” Brown said. “This is truly a state-of-the-art facility, a first-class facility.”
From the moment they step into lobby, students and visitors will notice the changes. A sprawling new media center sits to the right and a two-story skylight shines onto the inlaid Trojan logo on the floor. Doors to the left lead to the new administrative office areas and a set of double doors leads to the main instructional area.
“We’ve got a new security system, the first of its kind for our system, and from this lobby you’ll have to be buzzed into the main classroom area,” Hicks said. He explained the added security system also includes video cameras throughout the campus, with a live feed that can be viewed from computers throughout the TCS system. “We can look at the video feed any time of day or night, “ Hicks said.
Inside the main instructional area, three additional hallways lead from the center of the building to the new classrooms. The new art room, lined with a wall of windows, sits at the intersection of the hallways.
“We designed this with the larger sized classrooms,” Hicks said, explaining that the design intentionally capitalized on space and future growth. “We’ve got wide hallways, larger classrooms … we decided to skip some of the bells and whistles in order to put in the space we think we’ll need for the future.”
The building does not include lockers. “Most schools are moving away from them,” Hicks said, explaining that students often leave textbooks in their classrooms and use assignments and computers for homework.
Brown said the middle school students who were housed on the Charles Henderson High School campus this year did not have lockers. “We adjusted, and it really wasn’t an issue,” he said.
Outside, a set of covered walkways leads to the gymnasium – newly outfitted with a competition grade wood floor, upgraded and renovated locker rooms; the renovated band hall, science classrooms and labs, and computer center; and the new cafeteria, lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, new furniture and new kitchen equipment. “We’ve really concentrated on bringing in natural light,” Hicks said.
The buildings sit around an open-air courtyard, which serves as a new gathering spot for students.
“As part of this, we built this new road behind the school and are redirecting drop-off and pick-up traffic,” Hicks said. “Students will be dropped off at one of two locations back here and will be allowed to gather and visit in common area before school.”
Traffic will be rerouted to enter the campus from Gibbs Street and exit on Elm Street. “We think it’s going to help with the traffic on Gibbs Street,” Hicks said.
Brown said reactions from the faculty and staff who have seen the building has been overwhelmingly positive. “The teachers are excited. I get calls every day asking ‘when can we get in,’” he said. “And so has the response from the public. Being on the high school campus, I’ve seen several students this summer who have been at football or baseball works. They tell me they wish they could go back to eighth grade, just so they could be in the new building.”
However, he also cautioned that administrators plan to impress upon students the responsibilities that come with being the first classes in a new facility.
“We’re going to meet with the students to teach them our expectations in this new building,” Brown said. “We’re going to talk to them about respecting yourself, respecting others, and taking care of what’s been given to you, because it’s a blessing.”
Hicks said the district plans to hold a ribbon cutting and open house for the public, although no date has been set.