USD 234 school officials tour project from the inside

Saturday, June 25, 2016
Jason E. Silvers/Tribune photo Ed Carlson with Hollis and Miller Architects, second from left, explains changes to the gym and stage area at Eugene Ware School during a tour of school sites Thursday to view the ongoing USD 234 school bond projects. Also taking the tour were, from left, board member Vanessa Poyner, USD 234 Superintendent Bob Beckham, Early Childhood Coordinator Michelle Stevenson and Early Childhood Block Grant Project Coordinator Janelle Tate.

Members of the USD 234 Board of Education and other school officials this week received a closer glimpse of work taking place throughout the district on the $40.8 million school bond projects.

USD 234 Superintendent Bob Beckham took some board members and others on a tour of all four district schools, where a variety of work is taking place as part of the bond projects to make district-wide improvements. Voters approved the bond issue in late 2014.

Beckham said when he noticed the amount of progress being made during recent visits at school sites, he decided to ask board members to tour the buildings to view the changes. Summer work includes HVAC improvements, plumbing, wiring and classroom remodels, among other improvements.

"I go frequently to talk to site superintendents to see what's going on," he said. "I began to notice notable changes going on so I decided to invite the board."

Beckham said he was "shocked at how much progress" is being made with the projects.

"Every time I show up I look around and some progress is notable," he said.

As one example, Beckham said about two weeks ago he visited Winfield Scott to view construction on the high-wind shelter and cafeteria being constructed on the east side of the school.

"It was just this big cement bunker," he said. "A couple of days later, the whole roof was on and the kitchen was in place. The pace they're going is pretty amazing."

Beckham said it was difficult to get all of the board members on the tour due to their schedules and other factors, as well as the fact that having more than three board members together is a quorum and would be an actual board meeting.

Board members Jamie Armstrong and Michelle Hudiburg took the tour Tuesday. On Thursday, board member Vanessa Poyner joined Beckham, Ed Carlson with Hollis and Miller Architects, the architectural firm for the projects, Early Childhood Coordinator Michelle Stevenson and Early Childhood Block Grant Project Coordinator Janelle Tate.

Beckham said he will try to schedule dates for board members who missed this week's tour to view the project work at a later date.

Work at Fort Scott High School includes construction of a one-story science wing that will contain six classrooms, renovation of the commons area, construction of two new math rooms and a new auxiliary gymnasium being built onto the existing gym.

"They're also pulling out the old heating system and adding heat and air in the current gym," Beckham said.

Classroom remodels include new carpet, paint and ceilings. Public restrooms are also receiving complete remodels, he said.

The high school will also have a new front entry where administrative offices will be located. The old office area in the central part of the school is being demolished and revamped to hold a special education area.

High-wind shelters are being built at both elementary schools -- Eugene Ware and Winfield Scott -- and will house cafeteria additions. Areas that are being called flexible learning spaces, as they can be used in many ways, are being added at all four schools. Beckham said there will be flexible learning spaces for each grade level, kindergarten through eighth grade.

"Each grade level will have their own space," he said. "For the flex space at Winfield Scott, they're knocking out the wall between the two classrooms and making it into one classroom."

All of the grades at Fort Scott Middle School -- sixth through eighth -- will share a learning space at that school. The middle school is also receiving a high-wind shelter and new secure entry at the office area. Pre-cast concrete panels for the shelter to be built at the school should be in place within a couple of weeks, Beckham said.

"And they can still start school if it's not done," he said.