The West Liberty-Salem Local School District plans to break ground on its $30 million renovation project Monday after two delays.
“It’s going to really provide a huge change for our school,” WLS Superintendent Kraig Hissong said. “It’s just great for this community to have something like this and to have such a great deal to get it, too.”
The district will only pay $9 million of the project cost, with the state funding the other 70 percent. WLS will cover its part of the cost with funds from a bond issue that passed in August 2013, Hissong said.
The project started off with the school board looking at installing new heating and air conditioning and doing routine maintenance on the K-12 building, including roof repairs and repaving parking lots. Hissong said those improvements alone were estimated between $7 and $9 million.
“For about the same investment we would do locally to raise a bond issue to fix just what we needed fixed, we could completely renovate and renew our school,” Hissong said.
The project will gut most of the school in six phases and is scheduled to last until the spring of 2017.
The first phase of the project will add a new state-of-the-art science wing for high school students and a new elementary wing for preschool, kindergarten and first-grade students, Hissong said.
After those spaces are finished, students will migrate around the school while crews are renovating other areas.
The project will add 22,000 square feet for instruction and expand the size of all the district’s classrooms. Building codes have changed since the school was built 25 years ago and its current classrooms are now considered undersized.
The new classrooms will also have new virtual smartboards and other new technologies, Hissong said.
“They are going to have an updated learning environment,” he said.
The district is also changing the main entrance, cafeteria, gym and playground area.
Hissong said he hopes the new cafeteria will allow the school to condense its lunch schedule. Students currently are served continuously from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in the a building that has 1,250 students.
“The goal is to compress that down, change some serving lines and change that format,” Hissong said.
Ben Bowden is a senior at the school and said he is disappointed he won’t be able to enjoy the new renovations, but is happy his younger brother’s education will benefit from the changes.
“This gives him an opportunity to advance his learning but at the same time he gets to enjoy just everything being new,” Bowden said.
Weather delayed the start of construction twice already. The school plans to have an official ground-breaking ceremony April 22.