BELDING — The new Belding High School is beginning to take shape.
Football field upgrades have been completed and crews recently put the finishing touches on the newly-improved science wing. Major construction of the new auditorium and gymnasium is well under way.
The nearly $18 million project is part of a $38.8 million bond levy that voters approved in 2010.
Science wing spruce-up
Many of the classrooms in the high school haven’t seen any changes since the building was constructed in 1976.
Dan Scholtens has been teaching biology and anatomy in the science wing for 28 years. He’s watched as students attempt to work side-by-side on science homework and experiments within the tight confines of the old classrooms.
“Nobody likes to be crowded,” Scholtens said.
He said the old classrooms crammed students together so tightly that he could only “mingle” among them without really interacting with students and their projects.
Today, his classroom is twice the size it was last fall, complete with new technology and furniture that everyone is enjoying.
“The kids absolutely love it,” he said. “They’re really proud of our school.”
Each of the five science wing classrooms was expanded and equipped with document cameras, smart slates for the teachers and ceiling speakers.
“Right now, we’re kind of playing with the stuff to learn how to use it,” Scholtens said. “But it’s all really cool. The kids love it. This is such a huge shot in the arm for the community.”
He said the school is a step ahead of many districts as they work to modernize classrooms for the 21st century.
“The student of 2011 is not the same student of 1984 when I started,” Scholtens said. “It is wrong for us to expect to teach just like we’ve always done.”
Raising the walls
While work has been mostly completed in the science wing, construction is still going strong outside the science wing as the new 500-seat auditorium is taking shape. The auditorium will include modern acoustics, lighting, sound and stage controls.
The south and east walls of the building are almost completely up, with the north and west walls climbing quickly.
The new gymnasium next to the auditorium also is rising quickly, as trusses for the roof were being installed Wednesday.
“The roof will go on quickly,” said High School Principal Brett Zuver. “It’s really exciting.”
The new gym will seat about 2,200 to 2,400 spectators in a horseshoe shape on three sides of the arena. It will include a weight room and indoor jogging track, which will be open to the public.
The skeleton of the building is taking shape, but it will be a while before the new portions of the high school will be in use. School administrators hope to have the gym open for use by the end of this school year, but the auditorium won’t be used until spring 2013.
Next summer the main high school building will undergo a major overhaul as the existing auditorium will be transformed into a new welcome center, main office and expanded student commons area.
The current main office area will be reconstructed into a main hallway through the high school, going from the west side of the building (the current main entrance) to the east (where the main entrance for the new gym and auditorium will be).
Many of those renovations will be ongoing after school starts next September, meaning the main office area and commons may be unusable for students and staff.
“We understand there will be inconveniences, but the end result will be tremendous,” Zuver said.
The high school work is slated to be complete in Jaunuary 2013.