Tuesday, September 13, 2016

EDITORIAL >> A new field of dreams

Demolition crews at the old middle school in Jacksonville have worked hard in the last couple of weeks to clear the 30-acre site for a new high school near Main Street and Hwy. 67/167. Demolition should be completed in about a month as the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District looks to a fresh start with construction of a new high school and three more elementary schools in the next few years.

The $60 million high school will open in 2019 with an initial enrollment of 1,200-1,400 students and is expected to grow to a projected 10-year enrollment of 1,693 students. That number could drop, but the school district will then downsize plans if enrollment doesn’t reach the more optimistic numbers.

Current enrollment at the old high school is 966 students, and enrollment should typically grow to about 1,000 by the end of the school year, according to School Superintendent Tony Wood.

We’d like to think enrollment will increase at the new high school when parents see the new campus under construction. It will be visible from Hwy. 67/167 and will be a great advertisement not just for the school district but for the whole city.

“I think you’ll be writing about growth for years to come as we grow stronger and are more progressive and mature, growth will come,” he told our reporter John Hofheimer last week.

The high school will have about 260,000 square feet of energy-efficient space, such as dining and media center, which can be increased or downsized depending on enrollment.

Plans call for four science labs and 50 additional core classrooms, a 900-seat auditorium with after-hours accessibility and a 1,500-seat competition gym and practice gym with lockers and support space.

The student-run Simply Delicious Restaurant will continue to operate on campus, along with career-education spaces for auto body, information technology, robotics, computer aided design and crafting, computer coding and more totaling 21,000 square feet in all.

Lead architect Eldon Bock of Witsell, Evans and Rasco said there also would be spaces for choir, art, band and orchestra and a storm shelter sized for the campus populations.

Athletic facilities will include weight training, sports-field seating, concessions and press box and collaboration spaces for teacher teaming and small group interaction.

The new high school campus will signal Jacksonville’s rebirth and will help revive the rest of the city along with its neighbors.

School board president Daniel Gray said at the start of the demolition, “JNPSD will provide our kids with the world-class facilities, curriculum and opportunities they deserve.”

He said parents no longer need to leave Jacksonville to give their children the best education. We agree: If you build it, they will come.