Breaking ground on opportunity
When a tile falls from a high school ceiling – a ceiling that's been known to frequently leak during the rainy season – and that tile nearly hits a student at his desk, the incident qualifies as a distraction to learning.
Cherie Stroud described that distraction during a ground breaking ceremony for the new 2-story classroom wing at North Marion High School held Wednesday, May 8.
The event exuded a forward-looking festiveness, complete with introduction numbers from the school's jazz band and sketches of the promising new structure, which will connect the current main building with an exterior one that houses career technical education (CTE) and art programs.
Stroud, the school's director of teaching and learning, equated the new facility upgrade to expanded opportunities, noting a connection between CTE opportunities and improved, near-perfect graduation rates among students in that group.
She also said new construction will enhance proximity, hence inclusiveness; students in the outer building will no longer have a sense of separation.
But Stroud's most salient point focused on the boon of losing distractions, such as a falling tile.
"When you are freezing in the winter and sweating profusely in the spring, those are distractions," Stroud said. "Those are inherent in an old beloved old building…What will change when we lose the distractions is we will have more opportunity for the kids."
Joining Stroud in addressing the scores who turned out were North Marion School District Superintendent Ginger Redlinger, NMHS Principal Dee Ann Jenness, Wenaha Group Project Manager Keiron Spellman and Heidi Torian, the district's board chair and a 1979 NMHS graduate.
In addition to the jazz band, a student-created slide show accompanied the introductions during the initial gathering, which assembled in a centralized cafeteria/auditorium area, one that Jenness told attendees was the prized construction project afoot when she first came to the district back in September of 1995.
In that setting the principal said she's worked through the debris over the years and advised that patience with the construction projects will ultimately pay dividends.
"Looking ahead, this is where we are now," she said, then pointed to the spiffy buildings in the sketches, "and this is where we will be."
"In the next six weeks (when school adjourns for the summer) you will see a little change," he said. "But I guarantee you will see a big change when you come back in September."
The Wenaha project manager anticipates the entire operation to wrap up in October or November of 2020.
Once the informative element was complete the group filed outdoors where various stakeholder groups posed with shovels for the official groundbreaking photo ops. The festive environment was, perhaps, best epitomized by Superintendent Redlinger's playful romp, a sprinting photo bomb through one such photo op.
In November 2017 North Marion School District voters approved a 42.2 million bond for facility expansions, upgrades and improved safety. It passed with just over 60 percent of voter support.
The first bond project involved renovating the high school track, which was completed last year and commemorated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 14.
Subsequent plans saw reconfigurations of the primary and middle-school parking lots. Improvement plans also call for seismic upgrades at the middle school gym and locker rooms, while most of the bond money is earmarked to improve the district's oldest building, its 70-year-old high school.
A central part of that improvement is the two-story wing, groundbreaking for which was celebrated Wednesday, that will connect the school's main building with the one housing career technical education and art programs.
Highlighted visions within the project stress safety, inclusiveness and a boost in student opportunities.