PITTSBURG — Walking through the entryway, Pittsburg High School is nearly unrecognizable in comparison to years ago.
What was once low ceilings and closed-in space is now a tall, brightly lit area which welcomes students, staff and guests into the building.
PHS was one of the largest projects from the USD 250's $31 million bond issue which voters approved in March 2017. With only a few “button” items to do, the district has announced the completion of the project which was led by Crossland Construction.
USD 250 Superintendent of Schools Richard Proffitt said the district is pleased with the overall finished project.
“It’s just a reflection of the support the community gives to education and their desire to make sure that we had adequate facilities, both from a safety standpoint and from a practical standpoint of giving us spaces that will allow for the environment that is the most conducive to learning in all areas,” he said.
The high school project was $17 million — which included renovations to the entryway, front office, principals and counseling rooms, nurses’ office, several classrooms, library, special education, kitchen, cafeteria and meeting room for students. The front of the school also received a “facelift.” The kitchen/cafeteria area also serves as a FEMA standard shelter.
There were a few bumps along the way at the high school, one of which was the need for a fire suppression system.
“One of the things we were not anticipating to begin with is that we had to put a fire suppression system and that ended up being $480,000," he said. "With that in, the scope of the project we still came in under the budget."
Despite the nearly half a million dollar cost for the suppression system, the district was $23,000 under budget overall. According to Proffitt, the district can allocate some of the funds left over to take care of things that would fit the "bond language".
Another, less pricey, bump was the water leaks in the newly renovated music room after a "tarp had not covered a test hole for an inspection,” Crossland Construction said in the release at the time of the incident. There were two leaks in the area on two occasions, in Aug. 2018 and Oct., which the staff and others helped clear out. The USD250 Board of Education voiced their concerns at the time and the leaks were repaired.
Passing Pittsburg Community Middle School it is hard not to notice the new structure at the east of the school. One of the middle schools projects included a brand new gym which was created to give more space for physical education classes and additional space for teams during games.
“I’m very pleased and thankful for the people of Pittsburg and our administrators and board of education because this is going to be a great opportunity — not only to give kids more opportunities but just to allow us to showcase more activities,” Assistant Principal and Activities Director Chris King said. “Seeing them participate in here is worth all of the time and stake to get it going.”
The gym’s locker rooms also serve as FEMA storm shelters.
“We were able to fit all of our student body and staff in the entire storm shelter,” King said, adding each grade has a designation of where to go during severe weather and there was ample room to spare. “We are working on routes to make it more efficient with the crisis team and the schools’ SRO (School Resource Officer).”
All of the elementary schools received renovations and additions. Meadowlark, Westside and George Nettels Elementary Schools projects included new classrooms which also serve as FEMA standard shelters. Most of the new classrooms have flexible seating and are used by many teachers for group work and other activities.
A new cafeteria was built at Lakeside Elementary School. The cafeteria also serves as a FEMA standard shelter.
According to Proffitt, the district has already conducted tornado drills throughout the entire district and all of the students and staff fit in those areas with room to grow, he said.
During school hours the public is not allowed in school because of school safety issues, Proffitt said. After normal operating hours and if there is an emergency, if somebody — such as a janitor—notices that there is someone outside needing in the shelter, that person will not be turned down.
“We just want everybody to understand that during the day when our students and staff are there that [the shelter] is what that is for and our focus is going to be making sure those people are getting in there,” he said, adding that it can be difficult to designate people to open the shelter doors after operating hours because doing so "means we would have to be putting an employee out in harm's way as well.”
What is next is to be determined, Proffitt said.
“We still have existing facilities that we need to keep up and some of those facilities are aging, so we have to take care of some deferred maintenance,” Proffitt said. “We are constructing a capital outlay plan to prioritize and address the needs we have ... we are looking at numbers and put in plan and prioritize them in the most appropriate way.”