Transformed junior high draws praise from students

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Construction on the new middle school started last June and finished on time.When Banks middle school students went to school Monday morning, they entered a new learning environment supported by community members and school leaders.

The new two-story school featuring open spaces with natural lighting, automatic ventilation systems and the latest technology was funded by a $10.5 million bond passed in 2012, which also paid for other improvements throughout the district. The building was completed on time and $310,000 under budget at about $7.5 million, which will help fund a new athletic field on the south side of the school.

Most contractors said a new middle school wouldn’t be ready until October of this year, said Banks School District Superintendent Bob Huston, but the P&C Construction and DLR Group architecture firm made it happen.

“It’s very exciting,” said Fred Cavendish, whose son is a seventh-grader in Banks. “We had that shoddy old building forever.”

The ceilings are slanted and windows are large to make use of natural lighting. And the “technology is unbelievable,” said Huston, pointing to projectors with wirelessly connected pens that turn white boards into “smart boards.”

“This building is very nicely set up for technology,” said Max Sigander, a member of the district’s technology team. “The interactive projectors are a neat feature.”

Sigander and the tech team moved over the district’s central server during spring break with no major hiccups.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - During spring break, helpers moved books into the new library, which features natural lighting and a computer lab. “I was really nervous about the server transfer,” Huston said. “But everything worked.”

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Michaela Shults, a 2013 Banks High School graduate, painted this mural representative of Banks for her senior project.“Things work,” Sigander laughed. “We’ve had good support and vision from Mr. Huston, and the contractors have been amazing.”

In addition to the advanced technology set-up, the school also showcases homier touches such as a vertical cut of an oak tree felled during construction in the lobby and a mural painted by Banks High School graduate Michaela Shults.

For the students checking out their new accommodations on opening day, it seems to be the simple things that stand out.

Seventh-grader Blake Gobel is excited to have a locker. “We just had cubbies before,” he said.

“These chairs are awesome,” said student Stewie Randal. “They’re way more comfortable.”

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Students milled about on their first day in their new middle school, which features spacious classrooms and new technology.“It’s pretty exciting,” said seventh-grader Kyra Skinner, whose first day at Banks Middle School was in February, starting out her time in the district in the portable classrooms. “It’s really nice to have more space. That it’s two stories is the coolest part.”

Now they just have to get rid of the portables the middle schoolers have been spending their 2013-14 school year in. “They’re for sale,” said Huston. “They’re a dollar each.”

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