WILCOX — Wilcox-Hildreth Public Schools recently broke ground on a 35,000-square-foot, $8.99 million addition.
Two additions will be added to the main K-12 school at 404 Sapp St. in Wilcox. The project has been in the works for the past two years and could be part of a multiple-phase project to update the school’s facilities, said WHPS Superintendent Justin Patterson.
“The reason behind it is our buildings are getting older in age. The main structure on the Wilcox site was built in 1949,” Patterson said.
The larger addition to the Wilcox site will extend north from the existing building. It will feature a new competition gymnasium with a 1,200-seat bleacher capacity, two varsity locker rooms and a coaches’ area. There will be a new activities entrance leading to a commons space that will function as a cafeteria and gathering area for activities and events. The current gym will be used for junior varsity games and physical education classes. A new kitchen facility will border the commons area.
The second addition will be located on the west side of the building and will add a family and consumer science classroom and science lab to the school. The FCS classroom will have three kitchen learning stations, flexible classroom space and a separate storage/laundry room. The science lab will feature up-to-date technology and equipment, multiple fume hood exhausts, microbiology safety cabinet, separate chemical storage area, three large lab stations and classroom seating.
The west addition will have a main academic entrance vestibule to provide a single, secure access point for visitors during school hours. There will be new administrative offices and a staff workroom adjacent to the secure reception area.
The project is being funded through the school’s special buildings fund.
“This is a lease-purchase agreement which is in a sense a seven-year loan. (It’s) shorter term than a bond. We have the ability to pay for the payments and the construction cost out of using the special buildings fund, which then saves the taxpayers,” Patterson explained.
Patterson expects the additions to be finished by fall 2020. While construction continues, the bus loading zone will be moved to the south side of the building. Once finished, there will be one-way traffic around the school’s block.
WHPS has also reconfigured its grade levels. The Wilcox site will have grades preK-2 and 7-12. Grades 3-6 will be in Hildreth, which previously housed grades 5-8.
“We’ve done a lot of flip-flopping, changing some classrooms over (in Hildreth), the physical setups, different styles of desks, technology needs in classrooms that we are now utilizing that we weren’t using before,” Patterson said. “We installed a new playground (in Hildreth). (It’s) a more age-appropriate playground for the students that will be there. That existing playground was aged out anyway, and it was a good time to get that done.”
As progress moves forward on the additions, the community is looking forward to it coming to fruition, Patterson said.
“I think the communities are very excited to see something happen within their district. The staff and students are excited to see changes going on. Sometimes change is scary, but change can also be good for a community, and we want to see this community continue to grow,” he added.