After living for a year in a construction zone, followed by a pandemic, Baxter Community School District was excited to unveil it’s newest addition, a $6 million school renovation project. Although the public hasn’t been able to tour the new facilities, yet, students and staff are enjoying the added space and updated features.
“The fun part of this year is we get to open our new building,” Baxter Superintendent Mickolyn Clapper said.
Located primarily on the northeast side of the property, the new building replaces the aged two-story school that had been in Baxter for more than a century. The approximately 24,570 square foot addition includes laboratories within the science classrooms, a green screen classroom for multi-media production, special education classrooms and the principal and secretary’s office.
Bolt Pride is felt as soon as you walk through the doors with the school colors showing exactly who the school is. Those visiting who come in the newly constructed section also get a first hand look at work spaces designed for the students.
Within the school is community areas, filled with individual and group tables, chairs and work spaces. Those spaces have become invaluable as the students and staff headed back to the classroom for instruction during a pandemic. By having them, there was additional space, if needed, for social distancing while learning, something every school is working to provide while dealing with COVID.
The student parking lot has also been redesigned, allowing parking spots to be angled instead of straight to allow up to an additional 120 parking spaces behind the school.
“We’re also going to change the parking out front, as well,” Clapper said. “Instead of parallel parking, it’s going to be angle parking so we can get more spots. Most of the parking (work) will be out back.”
Construction took place for the project throughout the 2019-2020 school year and summers. Staff and students often had to adjust on the fly as crews moved in and out of the buildings, and classrooms looked a little different but with the end goal in mind, everyone worked together in what became a historical year.
“The crews we have been working with are great and we have stayed pretty much on time with the project. It has progressed so much,” Clapper said during construction. “We really started with demolition last summer and we are now almost ready to wrap up completion of the new building. It has been an amazing process to watch.”
While COVID caused many issues for schools, businesses and everyday life, when it came to the construction crews, having the buildings empty was beneficial.
“The crews working on the project are wearing masks and they are trying to social distance. At one point there were too many people working too close together, so they project manager had to send some crews home to ensure everyone’s safety,” Clapper said. “We also had the same crew that only works on our project now rather than people working on multiple projects to limit possible exposure.”
Even through a pandemic, the project wrapped up before the 2021-2022 school year was set to begin. While the school leaders would have loved to show off the new facility to the public, it unfortunately was closed to outside visitors. A ribbon cutting was held to celebrate the project along with virtual tours before students took their first steps in.
“We are just really excited about the whole project for students, staff and community enjoy this fantastic new facility,” Clapper said.