Just before the end of the school year in May, the new portion of the building was finished, and school employees have been working over the summer to put finishing touches on it.
Principal Danny Coggin said the new classrooms “will go a long way” in helping to accommodate a continually growing student body that has surpassed the 1,500 mark.
“It’s going to be a great addition,” Coggin said. “We’re excited about it.”
Eight classrooms located on two floors in the 13,000-square-foot addition will house science and Freshman Academy classes this fall.
While some teachers will still have to “float,” which refers to sharing classrooms with other teachers, Coggin said it will lessen the frequency with which they have to switch during a school day.
The new addition has allowed for “departmentalizing” the classrooms so teachers who teach the same subjects can be nearer to each other. The four first-floor classrooms will be used by the school’s Science Department, and the second-floor classrooms will be used by teachers in the Freshman Academy program.
The classrooms themselves boast features like extra storage spaces, smart boards and audio systems with microphones so teachers can more easily make themselves heard.
Some teachers have already been working to add their own finishing touches to each space. Props like fake fish can be found in the science classrooms, and one of the upstairs classrooms has been personalized with items like a black-and-white rug and pink faux flowers.
In addition to features like storage, the addition was built to allow it to withstand strong storms.
The majority of the cost for the project — $1.2 million of $1.7 million — was covered by a hazard mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which meant it was to be built to safety specifications recommended by the agency.
The new section of the school features windows meant to withstand tornado-force winds, exterior walls filled with poured concrete and air conditioning units located inside each classroom instead of on the roof. Each floor has a storage room that houses a backup generator that keeps the lights on and the air circulating if power fails elsewhere in the school.
Coggin said he and the school’s staff are writing emergency procedures to include the new addition as the place students need to go in the event of a tornado warning.
“We can get the entire student body here in this part of the building,” Coggin said.
Save for the thicker windows that have a slightly different shape, the addition was designed to match the rest of the school. It sits on the right side of the school’s front entrance which looks out onto Lauderdale Memorial Highway.
Also relatively new to the school is an addition that was made onto the school’s cafeteria in the spring.
A new section called the “Mustang Cafe” features a sub-sandwich bar and a coffee bar.
Besides the new menu items, the section has added more than 100 seats for students.
Prior to the new cafeteria section being finished in May, Coggin said there had not been enough room for students to eat. Some students got their food trays only to find they had to sit on the floor, which he called “unacceptable.”
For the last five weeks of the school year, students used the new space for the first time.
“This went out with a bang,” the cafeteria’s Debbie Walker said of the new space. “It went really well.”
Students have the option to order sandwiches like a deli club called the “Coggin Club” and a spicy sandwich called “Peace in the Belly” before taking it to a bar where they can add their own veggies and condiments.
Students who want coffee can take advantage of a row of Keurig coffeemakers that allow them to make individual cups to their liking.
Both additions were built with the help of architectural firm Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris, and local construction company Tri-Con Inc.
They will both be put to use on or after Aug. 8, the first day of school for the Bradley County school system.