After 18 months of seeing construction workers laying tile and hearing table-saws, the Kenyon-Wanamingo Middle/High School students and staff are finally starting to see some light, in more ways than one.

The update on facilities began in the fall 2017 after an $11 million facilities bond referendum passed by a significant margin, due to great community support.

The main goal was to have everything done by the first day of school. There have been a couple of setbacks which have delayed the timeline by a month, says K-W Superintendent Jeff Pesta.

“There was a labor shortage in the scale of trades and that has definitely slowed us down, because we have 38 different contractors that have bids a part of that total project, and they all are interdependent on each other but they are different firms. Our biggest issue was laying tile because you have to know what you’re doing, you can’t just throw it down. The tile company was always short of laborers, and then the painters would have to hold up. That’s how it ended up being behind.”

Now that the main improvements are finished, there is a little more electricity moving throughout the halls between staff, students and parents. Small changes in perspective, like seeing the mud in front of the school turn to sod have helped keep the energy alive.

Architects sketched out plans for staff, parents and students to see what the updates would look like beforehand, but then when they came in after major improvements were made, they were like “Whoa, this more than I thought, these are great spaces,” said Pesta.

Currently the school is using every space allowed after they pass state inspections. Now all that is left are some finishing touches, like putting glass in the windows on doors and finishing painting the trim. Everyday one more restriction is removed. Even though there have been some initial frustrations for students and staff in dealing with the noise and nuisance smells, which all come with construction, Pesta is confident people will quickly forget the drawbacks once they see the finished product. He believes that it will take one whole year to figure out how to best use the new spaces.

Pesta compares the current experience to Dec. 23, “You know something good is coming, you’re just not quite there yet.”

An investment

The main entrance connects to the commons area with an “L” shape which gives students different options with flexible furniture for group work, study halls or just as another inviting space to go to relax with friends. There are also standing and charging stations, along with a video panel for students to use for group projects or award presentations. It can also be used to find school records and old yearbooks.

The main entrance will feature locks on all the doors, so that all visitors have to pass by the greeter in order to be let in the field house or the school. Both sets of doors will also have a film on them which hides the inside of the school from visitors until they are allowed in, as well as a film on the outside door so the greeter can see out into the parking lot without anyone seeing them from the outside. There are also better options for those with limited mobility through a convenient drop off that is better lit and an overall better experience for visitors.

The field house brings “a whole different experience to the school where kids get quality time for practice and unlimited time to be practicing since they always had to fight for the prime spots, so this is really a big improvement,” said Pesta. The doors dividing the new field house and the current varsity gym, can be opened so the two spaces can turn into one large track for anyone to come walk or run when there is bad weather outside. It’s a flexible space not only to be used by the students, but also the community. Community Ed has the opportunity to house yoga classes and weight training in the weight room, as well as physical therapy for those in need. The opportunities are endless for what this field house can hold.

Other additions not as visible to the public are improvements to the locker rooms that connect to the field house, including new shower and restroom stalls to replace the previous open design. All roofs have also been redone with a “multilayer industry state-of-the-art, 40-year warranty roof,” with consideration of the age of the buildings and the flat roofs, since heavy storms bring water leakage through ceiling tiles.

Restrooms have also been updated throughout the remainder of the school to refresh the previous dingy spaces. There is also a track and field complex, which can also be a used as a football field. The complex is complete with a pole vault, discus nets, and a sand pit for triple jumps. The school will host it first track meet ever on April 1, 2020.

Drama students they now have access to locker rooms and a green room, which includes theater lighting and the space for them to keep their costumes. Music programs have really been developing these last couple years, and have gotten a lot of notoriety for its programs even though K-W is a small school. To date, there have been five all-state musicians in the school.

“It’s kind of fun to see how some things have developed even with limited facilities and so I think if you invest in making the facilities a little better that’ll continue that momentum,” says Pesta.

Other music improvements that have been made include a new sound system in the auditorium, as well as putting in new panels so the acoustics have been studied and improved with enhancements.

This Early Childhood space allows children to get their play-time activity in no matter the weather. There is a track that they can ride tricycles on, a rock-climbing wall and castle play structure. Kids of all ages are loving all that this space has to offer, Pesta said. “They just go absolutely bonkers and never get bored in there, especially for ages 4 and under, ages 5-6 like to climb on the wall, and ages 2-3 can ride on tries. There’s also a lot of open space for games or activities.”

The time and money has been well worth it, he said.

“Our best investment in the community is investing in the youngest kids in the family. The hallmark of the facilities updates is to invest in the families and the young kids and let them know that they’ll have a comprehensive education from birth all the way through high school, whether you want to specialize in theater, music or a sport, we’ve got the facilities for that.”

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