In March 2021, Assistant Principal David Nylen cited the deadline for the Blue Hall construction as summer 2022. However, it is September and the construction remains ongoing. The old section of the Blue Hall is back to normal for the most part after being partially blocked off during the summer. Meanwhile, the new wing is hosting classes in classrooms without finished floors or ceilings. During the freshmen orientation event, the entire hallway was inaccessible and the main gym lobby was filled with desks and chairs. But in just a few days, the entire hallway was prepared for the first day of school.
Assistant Principal Nylen acknowledges the construction delays. “We don’t have an actual day [when the construction will be done]. We’re hoping for sometime early winter. We get reports day by day. We want it to be done as soon as possible obviously, but there are a lot of factors beyond our control.”
For some teachers, the unfinished state of the new STEM wing in the Blue Hall is causing problems. “The ceramics classroom is nowhere near completion. Water is the single most important element when working with clay and we do not have a functioning sink. The kiln remains to be installed, so even if we had the capability of building with clay, nothing can be fired. The lighting is unfinished as well and the ductwork is so low students can reach and touch it by hand. As far as offering a better educational experience, I am skeptical. Advanced ceramics students who had class in the old studio have already complained about the ceiling height and the claustrophobic feel of the room,” explains art teacher Mark McIntyre.
Art teacher Ashlee Childers is more optimistic. “Construction has heavily impacted the art department over the last year. We’ve moved spaces twice and we have a lot of stuff! It has impacted the size and range of media we are able to offer. Slowly, the new rooms are coming online. The renovated drawing and painting rooms have a lot of cabinetry and counter space. Every student is able to have their own drawer to store work and materials. Upon completion, a new printmaking space will allow us to offer copper etching and screen-printing to advanced art students. A construction project as large as this has many moving parts and it can be difficult to keep everyone updated. We were shown floor plans but not a 3D rendering, so we weren’t really sure how the new spaces would look and function until we walked through in August. Some furniture hasn’t come in yet, so I think everyone is still figuring out the best layouts for their spaces, and I expect it to continue to change as the year progresses. It’s great to have art and tech spaces adjacent; it will hopefully lead to new collaborations between art and tech students.”
During the 2021-2022 school year, many teachers had to share classrooms to accommodate the displaced teachers from the renovated wing of the Blue Hall. “We’ve got everyone in their own room right now. There are a handful of teachers that share rooms, but they shared rooms before the construction project,” says Nylen.
According to computer science teacher Jay Lang, “Currently I’m not able to teach in my new classroom, but I have a fully functional temporary classroom with all my needs met. Last year I was in a similar situation for the entire year, so a few more weeks to wait is not a big deal. The only thing I miss is not being able to decorate my room and make it my own. I like to let my students know about my nerdy interests through posters and other decorations.”
Over a year ago, Nylen explained the district’s goal to complete the construction project without raising taxes. He noted that the district usually waits to complete one project before beginning the next, so as to keep tax rates constant. “As far as I know — and I don’t want to speak too far outside of my depth here — all of that would be a matter of a record. When [the taxes were] voted on — probably like 18 months ago — typically [the record] will tell you what the taxes are for. The best practice is if you replace [one project with another]. So we’re no longer paying a mortgage or debt on a previous project. When that goes offline, we put this one online. It’s usually very close to even, but I’d have to look at the numbers to say for sure.”
Lang remains hopeful that the renovated STEM wing will provide improved educational opportunities for him and his students. “I’m so excited for my new space. The biggest thing is that it’s not a computer lab with desktops and wires all over the place. Students will use their Chromebooks and sit in desks that can be moved around the room for collaboration. People think computer science classes are all coding, but we do group activities and collaborate just like other classes. I will also have ample room for the Nintendo Switches and PCs that we’ll use in our upcoming esports season. It will be a great learning space for my students. The communication has been excellent. I’ve known for weeks that I would not be in my new space for the start of the year, giving me time to prepare. [The] administration secured my temporary room and my classes will not miss a beat. I will admit that I had a lot of concerns with the design process and whether or not my suggestions were being heard. In the end, I’m getting everything I asked for and I’m really excited to teach in my new room.”
Nylen is hopeful as well. “Everyone’s done an incredible amount of work. Our custodial staff — teachers have been super flexible. To be honest, we’re a little disappointed it wasn’t all ready when school started. But we’re doing the best we can with what we have. We’re really excited about the space. It’s going to be a really nice space. We’re just trying to make it look better and be more functional every day. I think we’re going to notice lots of big improvements over the next few weeks for certain.”