Facility renovations will continue as school begins

RACHEL KELLER COLLINS/The Tribune-Courier

Construction crews worked diligently last week to complete as much as possible of the ongoing renovations at Marshall County High School before students return this week.

Large equipment is still parked near Marshall County High School as ongoing renovations are expected to continue for the remainder of this calendar year and into early next year. But Marshall County Schools Superintendent Trent Lovett said the building will be ready to welcome students on Aug. 8.

"If they had another month without us in there they could probably get it all done, but that's just not possible," Lovett said. "But we will start in a better place this year than we did last year."

Lovett said the majority of the classrooms are completely finished other than some ceilings to paint and finishing up baseboards. He said the rooms will probably still be a little dusty and not as starkly cleaned as the students are accustomed to seeing, but that is a work in progress too.

The parking lot hasn't been completed yet either, Lovett said, but that's by design. He said they didn't want to pour a brand new parking lot that will get torn up by the heavy equipment which remains on site, so that will happen nearer the end.

The commons area where students typically gather in the mornings "is coming along nicely," Lovett said, and the culinary wing "looks great." That wing was upgraded from an outdated and small domestic kitchen area to a large, modern, commercial kitchen area.

"I'm excited. It's going to be nice," he said. "I know it's been a challenge for Ms. Greer and her staff and students but they've handled it tremendously. We're all looking forward to it being complete and having the community come in to see it. I think it's going to be something we can all be proud to have."

In a video posted on the high school's social media page, MCHS Principal Patricia Greer said glass doors have been installed at the front of the cafeteria and at the front of the library that may be opened to create more free space. She said both spaces have also been completely redone and are ready to roll for this school year.

In a letter sent to students, Greer stated her staff expects less construction-related interruptions this year. When the renovation is complete, scheduled for Jan. 2020, she said the school is planning to host an open house for the community.

The traffic patterns for student drivers and student drop-offs will remain the same and students will continue entering the lower lobby of the gym beginning at 7:30 a.m. Student drivers will continue parking in front of the main gym and in from of the tennis courts. But the buses will utilize the new bus loop, entering at gate 1, looping in front of the new office and then exiting gate 2.

The letter also alerted families to a change in policies which no longer allows zippered binders in the school and no longer allows off-the-shoulder shirts. The school's policy now includes Saturday school as a discipline consequence and the site based decision making council has updated the attendance policy to reflect that addition: students with three or more unexcused absences may not participate in extracurricular events including prom, class night or graduation but may be able to make up missed time by attending Saturday school when it's offered.

The renovations are ongoing at Sharpe Elementary School as well, Lovett said, although it should be close to complete by the time students arrive later this week. He said the new administrative office is completely done and the new wing is open.

Sharpe Elementary Principal Jackie Reid said the bus circle and car rider line will remain the same as last year. Preschool pickup will now have a separate pick-up location behind the school in the new addition area. Doors will open for car rider drop off in the morning at 7:25 a.m.; middle and high school parents may drop off students no earlier than 7:25 a.m. to get on transfer buses to MCHS or NMMS.

"We just ask that all parents be flexible, understanding and patient with traffic issues during the first few weeks of school until everyone gets back into the routine," she added.

In April, the Marshall County Board of Education approved the addition and construction of vestibules at Central Elementary School, Benton Elementary School, Jonathan Elementary School, South Marshall Elementary School and the tech center at Marshall County High School. Lovett said they weren't able to get started on those structures yet so guards will be posted at the entrances in the meantime.

Lovett said all projects that take place on school property have a number of criteria, documents and approval processes that have to be completed before projects can begin--the vestibule projects are in that process.

During the April meeting, Lovett told the board members once someone is buzzed into the building through the locked doors they're in an open space and while they're supposed to go directly to the office, could venture into the school. He said the construction of security vestibules will keep school visitors from gaining access to the students and open school before checking in with school personnel. He also told them grant dollars earmarked for security measures would be used to cover the cost of the new structures.

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