High school renovations shaping up in Kent

By Justin Boyd Record-Courier correspondent Published:

"We're going to be 99 percent finished by the end of November," Kent Superintendent Marc Crail said.

The renovations are being paid for by a bond issue passed in November. Begun in June and costing just over $2 million, work has concentrated mainly on the cafeteria area and rooms used for science, art and music. Everything but the cafeteria and one art studio is already in use, but workers are still putting the finishing touches on much of the work.

Improvements in biology, chemistry and physics rooms include new cabinets, sinks, eyewashes, lab tables, lights, floors, ceilings and desks. Workers will work nights to install wiring and fixtures to accommodate computers and new equipment in labs by the end of October.

"It'll give us the groundwork to do those things we couldn't even have thought about before," said Ben Cowgill, director of business services at the high school. "It's really state of the art _ what we need for science."

Chemistry instructor Mitch Lambert agreed.

"I can do so much more, and it's so much safer," he said noting better ventilation and expanded work space. "That's the most important thing."

Workers have also added cabinets and lockers for the choir and band and installed new lights and ceilings in practice rooms.

"We've got this great music room with new storage," said sophomore Jeness Duffy who sings in the choir.

When it is finished, new construction will almost double the size of the art department.

"We're finally going to be a department," said Ken Gessford, an art instructor at the school for 31 years. Two new kilns will replace temporary ones in use now.

Gessford also praised the workers who have performed the renovations and noted the good example they have set for students.

"It's marvelous kids are seeing this," he said. "These kids need to see this kind of work ethic. The kids have risen to the occasion and gone along with it. They should be commended."

Crail also praised the construction workers and students.

"The cooperation and respect that the workers have had for the kids and the kids have had for the workers has really been exceptional," he said.

Work on the cafeteria area has been the most disruptive.

"It has caused a lot of confusion," said sophomore Maggie Sparks.

"Everyone used to congregate around there (the cafeteria)," Duffy said. "Now everyone just stands around."

Students displaced from the cafeteria have been eating in the gymnasium, an atrium also used as a study hall and a tent set up outside the gym.

"It's kind of nice to eat outside," Sparks said, "but last week we had to wear mittens."

Cowgill said that the new cafeteria ceiling panels were to be installed over the weekend and were expected to be in use today. The tent was to be removed Sunday.

Both Crail and Cowgill noted that the renovations are on schedule.

"We're right on time and right on budget," Crail said.

"Look at what we've done in four months," Cowgill said. "Where we are is the envy of any architect. You never know until you're completely done, but we've been really fortunate."

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