Innovations at Holcomb USD 363 are underway or wrapping up, with construction on renovations at the high school nearly complete and plans to open an on-site day care facility for staff members awaiting fire marshal approval.
All of the district’s four schools underwent significant updates recently, most of which were paid for by a bond approved by district voters in November 2017. Combined, the projects amount to $4 million in facility additions and improvements at Wiley and Holcomb elementary schools, Holcomb Middle School and Holcomb High School.
Projects at the elementary schools and middle school, including remodels and security upgrades to their front offices and heating and air conditioning updates at HES and HMS, were completed before summer began. At the high school, however, the longer list of projects were completed, for the most part, more recently.
At the time of the district’s August board meeting, on Aug. 12, there was a concern that not all projects would be completed in time for the beginning of the school year. However, Myers said, the district is now “up and running” without a hitch, and no students or staff were displaced or moved to temporary learning spaces.
The completed project areas are “usable,” “beautiful” and “much safer” than the old facilities, though some small, final steps of the projects are still being finished up, Myers said.
“Some of those things could be as easy as touching up some paint. Something else could be some plate that needs to be added. Right now in the office area, we’re trying to get a monitor connected. Three days ago, they put the glass into the principal’s office door. Just all those odds and ends at the end. But as far as use of space, we’re good to go,” he said.
The school built a new front entrance and front office and concessions stand in its cafeteria — to be used for the first time at upcoming volleyball games — and renovated a classroom as a media room-meets-lecture hall. Near the back of the building, there now stands a newly-built wrestling gym, which can double as a school and community storm shelter, said HHS principal Jason Johnson. Johnson said the space can also be used for physical education classes, indoor practice space for other sports, including football, in the case of inclement weather, and potentially for school dances or proms.
Separate from the bond project, USD 363 used a combination of bond and capital outlay funds to construct new athletic and P.E. locker rooms, some of which are being remodeled from the school’s existing locker rooms. The new locker rooms are complete, featuring open lockers and space for coaches to review tape with players, Johnson said.
The only project at the high school not yet open to students and staff are the remodeled old locker rooms, which are expected to be completed by Sept. 21, Myers said.
Johnson said the upgraded spaces matter — it elevates the school and shows students the district cares about them. It gives them the best, he said.
Campus day care
The district is also moving forward with plans to convert two former kindergarten classrooms at Holcomb Elementary School into a day care for USD 363 staff members. Myers said he does not know for sure how many kids the facility will be able to serve, though early estimates are roughly 12 children ages birth to 5 years old. He said the number may go down depending on how many infants are enrolled.
At the moment, he said, the project is at the mercy of the fire marshal, who will at some point inspect the former classrooms for safety. The fire marshal could arrive next week or in several months, Myers said — there is no set date.
Once the district gets feedback from the fire marshal, it can update the rooms as needed to meet state regulations before submitting the project to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for final approval. Myers said once all boxes are checked, the facility could open at any point.
There’s a possibility of converting the space from a workplace day care to a community day care in the future, Myers said, but the change comes with added regulations.
“We’ll see. We’re open to the concept. We just want to make sure that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it right,” Myers said.
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