“This is the last leg, where we can just go full-throttle on everything,” says Twin Valley School Board member Phil Taylor.
Construction started at the school last fall, shortly after the completion of a similar renovation and construction project at Twin Valley Elementary School. At that time, the former elementary wing of the school was occupied by middle school classes while renovation work began in the former middle school section. At the same time, construction began on a new administration building, an art and industrial arts building, and a new gymnasium. The old gymnasium was divided into an auditorium/performance space, a media arts and television studio, and music rooms.
Since then, crews have completed work on the new science pod which, Taylor says, “is incredible. It’s a world-class science lab. It’s spacious, and it looks great with the new cabinets in. It’s really looking impressive.”
Taylor says most of the work on the area that will become the high school classroom area has been completed – and middle school students moved into some of those classrooms over the April break to allow work to begin on the the pod they had occupied during the beginning of the year. “There’s still a little work to do in the high school wing, smaller issues that we’ll tackle ourselves to spruce things up a bit,” Taylor said.
The administrative wing is also nearing completion, and just in time for the current high school to be vacated. “We want to get the administration into (the new offices) and get them up and running while the other areas are under construction.”
The art and industrial arts building, located behind the main school facility, is about 75% finished, Taylor said. The gymnasium may be the only building that may not be finished before school starts in the fall. “We feel like we’re at a good place in terms of the schedule, and we expect the school to be ready on time.”
Currently, the middle school pods are getting the same treatment that the other pods got during earlier renovation; the glass block walls and single-pane windows have been removed and replaced with thermal panels and up-to-date windows. “It’s really transforming the classrooms,” Taylor says. “Not only is there a lot more wall space, there’s a lot more light than there was even with the glass block.”
During a recent tour with board members and administrators, Taylor says he heard a lot of “wows” from people. “That’s a really good feeling. When you’re looking at it week-to-week, you don’t see the progress you’re making. Having people come in to see the administration building and to hear all the comments is really nice feedback.”
As the project passes the halfway mark, Taylor says enough money has been saved to add a few special touches to the new school, particularly in the student common areas. “We’re trying to make it much more of a campus where there are places for students to go and hang out. One vision Lonny (Paige, Twin Valley Food Service Director) has been working on is to make the cafeteria an attractive place, so it will look more like a restaurant. It’ll have more of a cafe feel. A place where students can go to hang out during the day if they’re out of class. Or something classes can use if they want to collaborate on a project.”
The library will become more of a focal point, Taylor says. The library room was an addition built between two of the original pods, he says, and the wall that the library shares with the hallway is still lined with windows, although they have been covered over. That covering will be removed, restoring the windows between the library and the hallway. “That will open the library to the hallway and let a lot more light in. We’ll finish it off so it will have a ‘storefront’ feel to it, and there will be a counter along the window where students can sit.”
The library will also have a large central conference table that can break down into smaller tables so the room can be used for multiple purposes. The overall design idea, Taylor says, is “Vermont rustic.”
Another creative touch, near the science wing, is a built-in saltwater fish tank. “The science teachers have had a saltwater fish tank for quite a while, so we’re going to put it in the hallway and trim it out with cabinets on the other side. Students will pass by it whenever they’re in the hallway.”
In the gymnasium, building committee member Doug Swanson helped design and build a unique concession stand for the boosters club. “So now we have this really nice concession stand with windows on every side, so we can get people to volunteer because they won’t miss the game – they can just turn around and see what’s going on.”