Update – New high school, career academy

Editor’s note – Greene County superintendent of schools Tim Christensen provided the following update on the high school/Career Academy project.

~OPN Architects rendering

Building Project:

I wanted to give everyone an update on the upcoming building project that will include the new high school and career academy.

A steering committee composed of school board members and school staff have been meeting with architects and consultants over the last six months to develop a design for the school and career academy.

Throughout this time there have been several meetings with high school teachers and staff to get input as well as meetings with various community members to get input on specific parts of the building (career academy, auditorium, gym, weight room, etc.).

Click here and here to see the building design, which is just being finalized to go out for bid in January. A copy of the building design will also be included in the district newsletter mailed out in January.

The building remains consistent with previous renderings that have been released. There will be four distinct areas with a commons area running down the spine connecting the four areas.

The Career Academy will be located to the northwest facing Highway 30. It will contain some of the elements of the high school that made sense from a logistical standpoint. These elements of the high school contained in the Career Academy will be funded through the school portion of the project and not through funding provided by the Greene County board of supervisors. Although the Career Academy will be connected to the high school it will have a separate secure entrance.

The academic wing will be located on the northeast facing Highway 30 and will be a two-story structure with an elevator for handicap accessibility. There will also be three stairways providing easy access between the first and second floor.

Building a two-story structure is more cost effective. A two-story structure is more efficient to heat and a smaller roof footprint reduced initial cost as well as future roofing costs.

The building will have a secure entrance requiring visitors to enter through the main office. The design of the high school will provide a significant number of spaces to allow students to collaborate on projects and engage in 21st century learning.

The auditorium, instrumental music, and vocal music areas will be located to the southwest. The auditorium will seat 700+/- people allowing for significantly more uses than our current auditorium.

The gymnasium, locker rooms, and weight room will be located to the southeast. The gymnasium will seat approximately 1,500 fans with seating on both sides of the basketball court. The basketball court will be 94 feet long which is a regulation college length court. This is possible as the gym is long enough to accommodate three wrestling mats end to end, which is needed to host wrestling meets such as conference, sectionals, and districts. The seating on both sides will allow us to host district basketball and volleyball events.

The central commons area running down the spine of the building will be an outstanding open air space. During the school day students will have various gathering spaces in this area and students will also eat lunch in this area. The space will provide a place for fans to gather before/during/after athletic events and concerts and plays.

The main entrance for visitors during the school day will be located on the north side of the building. Parking for visitors, staff, and the Career Academy will be located north of the building.

The main student entrance will be located on the south side of the building. This will also be where student parking is located. A dry retention pond will be located northeast of the building. A wet retention pond (will generally always contain water) will be located southwest of the building. Plans are to relocate the current greenhouses to a location west of the Career Academy.

Vehicular entrances to the campus will be off Grimmell Road.

The north driveway entrance will be for staff, visitors, and the Career Academy, and will be the entrance buses will use. Parents will be able to drop off students at the main entrance on the north. Buses will continue to the east side of the building, keeping them away from the car traffic. Buses will drop off students on the east side of the building and they will enter through a courtyard on the east side.

The south driveway entrance will be for students to access the student parking lot.

As we have worked through the project design, cost has been a factor. As you go through the design process for a building project and people express their needs and wants, the project has a tendency to grow. This obviously results in increased costs. At that point it is necessary to look at everything involved in the project and prioritize needs and wants and begin to scale costs back. That has been taking place the last couple months. As this process takes place it is challenging to release a lot of building details as things could very well change.

We feel we have reached a point where the project is in line with the original budget. One thing that had been originally discussed that has now been taken out of the project is geothermal heating and cooling. When consultants ran the numbers for geothermal heating and cooling it proved to be more expensive to operate on a yearly basis than a boiler and chiller system. A geothermal system is also significantly more expensive to install upfront.

As we prepare for putting the project out to bid we are also looking at various alternative bids for the project. Alternative bids are important in case the overall bid comes in high or low. One alternate bid that will be considered is bringing the buses to the school from the east on American Avenue.

Career Academy:

I would also like to provide an update on the Career Academy.

Career Academy strands that are planned include Construction, Health Care, Agriculture Information Technology, Computer Software/Programming, Culinary/Hospitality, and Advanced Manufacturing/Welding.

We are in the process of developing the curriculum/classes for the Career Academy. At the present time I am meeting with faculty/staff from Iowa Central Community College and Advanced Manufacturers from Greene County.

The ultimate goal of the Career Academy will be to educate/train students to be employable in these areas immediately after high school. The Career Academy will provide these students with a level of post high school training that will meet Governor Kim Reynolds’ goal of having 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce having some level of post high school training by 2025.

We are strongly looking at apprenticeship programs as a part of the Career Academy. This would enable students to take classes in the Career Academy, working part-time for an employer, and eventually working fulltime for an employer. We are planning to model our apprenticeship program after a program we observed at the Pella Career Academy. After completion of the program students would achieve an Associate of General Studies degree from Iowa Central.

Thank you for your continued support of the Greene County Schools and the High School/Career Academy building project.

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