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HHS construction on schedule

Staff Writer
Posted on 8/10/2016, 10:38 AM

Work will not keep the school from opening for students on time

Harrisburg Community Unit School District #3 Superintendent Mike Gauch wants to reassure parents and students that Harrisburg High School will open for the 2016-2017 school year on August 22 with all students on the grounds of HHS.

"We will have students in the building, and we will start school," Gauch said. "We"re going to have to accept that it (HHS) will be a construction zone for a year."

Construction at the high school has been ongoing for the past year, beginning with the installation of a new heating and air system, and progressed to remodeling classrooms and the recent demolition of Building C, which included Bonnell Gym. When reconstructed and completed, Building C will house classrooms, home economics, cafeteria, the new media center, and administrative offices. Funds for the construction project came from the sales tax revenue - unaffected by the state budget issues.

While school is set to start in two weeks, construction is ongoing, to make sure that as much as is possible is ready for students on their first day. Harrisburg High School is an open campus, which allows students to leave for lunch. For the roughly 300 students who do not leave the campus, they will eat in the temporary cafeteria, which will be housed in what will become the AG building after construction is completed. When it functions as an AG center, it will feature machines for welding, the AG shop, and a woods shop.

To help fix the shortage of classrooms, nine temporary classrooms that can hold 15-18 students have been constructed inside of the new gymnasium. Included among these is a science computer lab, a consumer economics classroom, access to SmartBoards, and classroom technology, as well as makeshift labs in the locker rooms.

"The teachers understand that they can"t do what they normally do," Principal Scott Dewar said, while confirming that the temporary rooms will have all of the state requirements. "It just won"t be as glamorous."

Dewar also stated that "concessions" will be made for students for the first few weeks of school, to accommodate the change in classroom locations. Acknowledging concerns such as parking and travel time from building to building, Dewar stated that "contingencies" may be put into the schedule after Labor Day, like foregoing tardies.

In the main building of HHS, work is being done to renovate classrooms. In some cases, after asbestos was found in the glue of the floor tiles, the tiles were ripped up, leaving base floor boards that will have to be used until the flooring can be replaced. Most classrooms that are further along feature more electronic outlets, new windows, SmartBoards, new furniture for teachers, and other highlights.

One feature of the completed classrooms are the building"s wooden floors, more than 60 years old, re-sanded and re-finished. The decision to use the original floors, Gauch said, was a cost-saving measure. "There was nothing wrong with the original floors," Gauch said.

Although rumors abound about the state of construction, teachers are back in the classroom, and ready for the year to start.

English teacher Lana Bell praised the changes to the classrooms. "I think the changes are wonderful, I think it"s making a new learning environment for students, and we"re trying to acclimate the new with the old."

The majority of construction and renovation work is expected to be completed by August of 2017, in time for the 2017-2018 school year.