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Banks School: Almost a reality

The wait is almost over and the excitement is building among all who have a past, present and future connections to Banks School.

The architectural plans have been approved and all that is needed to begin the construction of a new school in the Banks community is the governor’s signature and for the contracts to be completed.

Pike County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Bazzell said, then, the demolition of the 1930 school building can begin.

“The Banks School is the last standing building of the 1930s Pike County School System,” Bazzell said. “At $6.6 million, the new Banks School will be the largest major project since I have been superintendent of education. We have had $3, $4 and $5 million projects but this is, by far, the biggest.”

And, perhaps, the most needed.

Bazzell said the Banks School project will be funded by state and local bond issues.

“Half of the funds will come from state bonds that are set aside for schools,” Bazzell said. “These funds do not have to be paid back. The other funds will come from local bond issues.”

Even though the structural campus has been enlarged to accommodate the student population, the original building is 90 years and counting. An occasional creaking of a board or two, is a reminded that generations of young, eager learners have passed that way.

Bazzell said Banks School is well known for its academic excellence and for the tremendous support it receives from parents and the Banks community. “It’s family,” he said.

But, it’s also a family divided.

Banks School has two campuses. The middle school is located in the town limits of Banks. The primary school is just down Highway 29 south.

“The new Banks School will bring both schools to one campus and that will be a plus all around,” Bazzell said. “Consolidating the two schools has been a goal of the Pike County Board of Education for a long time.”

A goal. A possibility. Now, soon, it will be out with the old and in with the new.

Bazzell said every stone has been turned in making the plans and approving the design for the new school and campus.

“The new building has been designed for safety and programming,” Bazzell said. “It will connect to the junior building which is the most recent addition to the campus. All outside doors are security doors and provide an extra layer of protection.”

The new 34,000-square-foot building is a multipurpose facility that includes a gymnasium with a stage.

“The gymnasium can accommodate 600 people at a time for stage programs,” Bazzell said. “If floor space is needed for events, the capacity will be about 300. The large gym with a stage will create opportunities for more and varied programs and events and also to grow enrollment.”

The building’s administrative suite will include the principal’s office and conference rooms and a teachers’ area.

The instructional halls will feature a two-part pre-K area, nine classrooms, including special education, a “much needed” science lab, a computer lab, a choir room, a STEM lab and a designated room to house the Banks Schools ‘award-winning journalism program. The new school building will also include a library/media center with a teachers’ workroom.

Bazzell said the campus will feature two parking areas, one for faculty/school vehicles and the other for buses.

“The parking lots are designed so that one lot is on one side of the campus and one on the other side” Bazzell said. “To ensure safety, the faculty and school parking lot is designed so that no vehicles will be waiting out on the highway. They will all be contained in the parking lot.”

Bazzell said the Banks School campus is designed to provide the best and most current educational trends of today and to meet the educational challenges of the future.

“Banks School will continue to provide the highest quality education and the most current educational opportunities for its students,” he said. “We look forward to the consolidation of the Banks Schools and the growth of the Banks family.”

With the vacating of the Banks Primary School, a decision will have to be made as to the future of the building and property.

“No decision has been made and we’ll have several options,” Bazzell said. “The facility could be used for professional development training or other such needs. The property could be sold but there are several buildings on the campus that are historically significant and that will be a consideration. But, right now, we are looking forward to getting started and that means taking the old building down.”

Bazzell said he understands that some bricks, perhaps, a pallet, will be saved and sold as a fundraiser to those who have a history at Banks School.

The completion of the consolidated Banks School, from the razing to the dedication, will take at least a year.  The doors will open that lead to experiences and opportunities not yet imagined.