ANDERSON — Though their classmates stayed snug at home Wednesday when Anderson Community Schools remained in e-learning because of the weather, members of the swim team practiced diving and strokes in the updated pool facility.
The pool project, including new lighting and ventilation systems, is one of the first projects at the high school that have been completed as part of the $41 million capital improvements referendum approved by voters in 2018.
“I’ll tell you, the day we walked in after they put up the new lighting, it looked like you had a new gym. It really made a big difference,” Mike Montgomery, principal architect and partner at Anderson-based krM Architecture, told the ACS board in an update at the Feb. 9 meeting.
The ACS capital improvements program is one of many undertaken over the past several years by school districts serving students in Madison County and surrounding communities, including Alexandria Community Schools, which has completed the $19.3 program approved by voters.
To date, ACS has completed about 90% of its capital improvements program, Montgomery said. Among the projects completed are Anderson Intermediate School, renovations at D26 Career Center, Tenth Street Elementary School cafeteria and secure entrances at buildings that didn’t have them already.
Anderson High School, the largest project in the capital improvements program, is about 80% complete, Montgomery said.
“Most of the site is being disrupted as you’re installing a new varsity soccer field, varsity softball, baseball, junior varsity baseball, junior varsity softball, and 10 brand-new tennis courts,” he said.
Already complete in addition to the pool, Montgomery said, are locker rooms, auditorium renovation, media center and the new Innovation Center, which is scheduled to open in a few weeks.
The tennis courts are about 90% complete.
The projects that are about 70% complete, Montgomery said, are the soccer, baseball and softball fields; the new band room; and the auxiliary gym and weight room.
“The big that’s left is actually putting the seed in the ground, which is actually sensitive to temperature and weather,” he said.
The choir room and theater have not yet been started.
Craig R. Dunkin, owner of W.R. Dunkin & Son Inc., told the ACS board that the old choir room, media center and drama areas will be completed in that order.
“They occupy the same space. It’s kind of a domino effect,” he said.
Dunkin said he hopes everything will be complete sometime in the fall.
“If we can work things out, and then this a hope, we might be able to move the completion of Sequence Six, which is the drama, if we can get it done over the summer concurrently with the choir, we can have it basically done for school in August, but I’m not going to predict that at this moment,” he said.
The board praised the work that has been completed to date.
ACS board member Jean Chaille said it was helpful for her to know what the completion sequence will be moving forward.
“I spent a lot of time there when my kids were swimmers, and going back now, like you said, the lights just really add to it, and the air handler is wonderful,” she said. “So I am glad we have been able to make these upgrades, and I am glad you have been able to stay on budget and on schedule.”
ACS board member Diane Airhart also offered praise.
“I am very proud of the physical facilities of Anderson Community Schools,” she said. “I think we can hold our own with any school district.”
At Alexandria, most of the new construction and renovations were completed by the start of the 2020-21 school year.
“COVID-19 has not stopped our construction projects from marching forward. We have substantially completed both the elementary and high school projects under budget,” said Alexandria Superintendent Melissa Brisco.
District officials hope to celebrate with a ribbon cutting soon and start to schedule limited tours of both facilities.
“COVID-19 has reduced public access to our facilities, so we need to be thoughtful about how we host tours,” she said. “However, you need to see what your money has done for the academic, athletic, and extracurricular opportunities our kids have as a result of the construction projects.”
The construction of an elementary wing and renovations at the intermediate school allowed for the centralization of all the Alexandria district’s schools onto one campus. That also allowed for the sale of the administration building as operations were moved to the previous elementary school site.
“We’ve upgraded technology and learning spaces throughout the building, moved the main office, and added windows and natural light in the old band room and cafeteria area,” Brisco said of the elementary school.
The high school projects – including gutted and rebuilt science labs, added spaces for Project Lead the Way and rebuilt locker rooms – also are nearing completion, Brisco said.
“The final piece to the project is the auditorium,” she said. “We are currently working to resolve the moisture issue, replace the ceiling tile, carpet and paint.”