The new two-story classroom building and an addition to the school’s cafeteria have both been completed ahead of schedule. The school is working on getting both ready to use.
Danny Coggin, Walker Valley’s principal, said the projects were needed to accommodate an ever-growing student body, which currently accounts for more than 1,500 students.
“This has been a really great opportunity,” Coggin said.
The classroom expanse boasts 13,000 square feet and eight classrooms divided between two floors. Because of the way the building was funded, it boasts features that are meant to make it storm resistant.
During a May 2013 meeting of the Bradley County Board of Education, it was announced that $1.2 million of the classroom addition’s estimated $1.7 million cost would be covered by a grant.
The school was awarded a Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant, which was distributed to the school by the state. That funding source allowed the new addition to be built to FEMA-recommended safety specifications.
Safety features such as windows meant to withstand tornado-force winds, and exterior walls filled with poured concrete to make the addition even sturdier than the building it adjoins, have been added. Other features include a new backup generator that can provide light and keep the air circulating, even if the power goes out.
The heating and cooling systems for each classroom are located inside the rooms themselves instead of outside.
Coggin said the FEMA standards followed in the construction dictated there be nothing attached to the outside of the building that could be torn away in the event of a storm.
The eight new classrooms in the addition will not be utilized until the fall semester, but Coggin said it will likely help with some of the overcrowding issues.
Gone are the days when a Walker Valley teacher can stay in the same classroom all day while his or her students move from class to class. As the number of students increased, Coggin said teachers had to begin sharing and switching classrooms.
However, he said having eight new classrooms that can each fit about 35 desks will allow teachers to not have to switch rooms as often.
“It will help,” Coggin said. “But it won’t cure” the problem.
All that remains are finishing touches like marker and smart boards and new sound systems that will allow teachers to use wireless microphones so they can be heard in a large room with interior heating and cooling systems.
The new classroom addition was designed to look similar to the rest of the building. It sits on the right side of the school from Lauderdale Memorial Highway.
Another addition sits on the other end of the school.
The growing student population also meant students did not have enough room to eat in the cafeteria. Coggin said some students were getting their trays and sitting on the floor to eat, which was “unacceptable.”
The new area has been dubbed the “Mustang Cafe” and will allow tables with 128 new seats as well as a sandwich and coffee bar.
Coggin said the new portion of the cafeteria has been a source of excitement for many students, and it will be ready for them after they get back from spring break on March 31.
“They’re ready to get in there,” he said.
Both additions were built with the help of architectural firm Kaatz, Binkley, Jones, and Morris and local construction company Tri-Con, Inc.
Coggin said construction at times happened during the day while students were in school, and workers did a good job of saving the noisiest tasks for after school hours.
Coggin said an upcoming school project will be to add locks to a set of doors just past the entrance of the school’s main office.
Once the locks are installed, people can be forced to enter through the office once all the students arrive for class on a given day.
He said the school is thinking of “upping security.”