New middle school gets green light

Construction of a new Greenwood Middle School will begin before winter.

School officials, architects and engineers are starting weekly meetings to discuss what they want in the building so they can finalize the details, such as materials used for floors and walls and classrooms locations.

Residents had 30 days to file a petition with at least 100 signatures to send the project, which would cost up to $43 million, to a public vote.

The 30-day remonstrance period ended Sunday, and not one resident asked for a petition to circulate, Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said. Now, school district personnel are moving ahead with designs, construction plans and borrowing the money needed to build the 160,000-square-foot building on land the district owns and to build an athletic facility at the high school campus.

Construction on the school, planned for a site off Averitt Road near Freedom Park, could start as early as September or October, and the building is scheduled to be open by fall 2017 or early 2018, Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

The new middle school, which officials said is needed because the current school needs major repairs and lacks large-group instructional space, is the top priority. School officials also included the athletics facility, which is planned to have three basketball courts, locker rooms and a concession stand, in the construction plans. But construction on that project will not start until at least next year, DeKoninck said.

School officials plan to have the final designs for the new middle school completed by the end of this summer. They have started working on general plans for the building.

DeKoninck said one of the top concerns is classroom sizes.

The standard size for a middle school classroom is 900 square feet, but some of the current middle school’s rooms are as small as 700 square feet, he said. At the new building, classrooms should measure between 900 square feet for regular classrooms, leaving more room for students to spread out and work in groups, and about 1,100 square feet for science labs.

School officials also know how they want to lay out the school — with a section for classrooms and a separate section for special events, such as sports and performances. That way, visitors are separated from the classrooms where students normally will be during the day, he said.

The main floor will house the offices, gymnasium, cafeteria, art and music rooms, and any other shared spaces that every sixth- through eighth-grade student could use on a daily basis. A designated parking lot next to the gymnasium will be for visitors to park and walk to the football field, track or basketball court for games, DeKoninck said.

That layout also makes it possible to rent out the middle school for events, DeKoninck said. For example, if the city wanted to host a festival in Freedom Park, it could use the football and track and field area, gymnasiums or parking lots at the middle school, he said.

The school also is laid out in a way to avoid traffic backups. Parking lots are designed for the best traffic flow possible and will bring parents onto the road beside the bus garage and around the building, he said.

Officials estimate 500 to 600 parking spots will be located on either side of the school building.

Each grade level will have its own floor in a three-level academic wing, located off the main section of the school, DeKoninck said.

Traditional classrooms will line the academic wings, and shared spaces will be at the end of each floor, he said. The shared space could be used during special assemblies, teacher meetings, hands-on experiments in science classes or events for entire grade levels.

The rooms will not have installed seating, so students can use the entire area, he said.

One feature that the school specifically will not have is an auditorium, DeKoninck said. Although administrators could use it for schoolwide assemblies or pep rallies, the space wouldn’t have been used enough to make sense with the overall cost of building, heating and cooling, he said.

The school will have enough industrial arts space for the robotics team to build students’ creations, DeKoninck said. And students will be able to use a larger eight-lane track for sports.

The current middle school track is not large enough to host track and field meets, and students travel to the high school for practices and competitions, DeKoninck said.

Some of the other details, such as technology that will be used, have not been decided.

Officials want to bring new technology to the building, but no decisions have been made on what will be purchased for each classroom, DeKoninck said.

Currently, the middle school has a 3 to 1 ratio of students to computers, tablets or laptops, and there is no plan to move to every student having a device, he said.

Teachers have been asked what they will most likely use in the new space and what items they would not want.

Projectors and smartboards, where people can touch a screen or whiteboard to control a computer, have been brought up. The school will have Wi-Fi ports in every section of the building so students, teachers and administrators can get online at any time.

School officials also are looking at ways to cut costs. For example, new furniture will be purchased for most of the building, such as desks and chairs, DeKoninck said.

But items that are in good condition, such as choir risers or sound amplifiers used for choir performances, will be brought to the new building. The current desks, chairs and other items left behind most likely will be sold at a public auction, he said.

What's Next?

School district officials can move on to designing a 160,000-square-foot middle school to replace the existing Greenwood Middle School. The new building will not be open until at least fall 2017, but construction workers could break ground as early as this fall. Here’s what officials will do over the next six months to prepare:

  • Meet weekly with architects, engineers and construction managers starting this week.
  • Finalize smaller details, such as placement of classrooms and materials to use for walls and flooring, this summer.
  • Ask teachers for their recommendations for technology and equipment needs in new classrooms.
  • Put together a construction package and hire a contractor by September or October.
  • Start construction by the end of fall, depending on weather.

By the numbers

Initial layouts of the new Greenwood Middle School building have been done, and administrators are finalizing the blueprint this summer with engineers and architects. Here are some of the items that will be included in the new building:

3: Basketball courts planned within the school; two for regular games, and one for practices or weekend tournaments

3: Floors in the school’s academic wing. Each grade level will stay on a certain floor, except for lunch, art, music and physical education classes

8: Track lanes, up from two currently

500-600: Parking spots

900-1,100: Average square footage per classroom

160,000: Square footage of new middle school