Over the span of two years, Rizzo’s Construction Co. crews have spent their days here working on additions to the already largest high school in the state. The school has added Building G (the Freshman Academy) and Building H (the DHS Performing Arts black box theater).
City taxpayers approved a $60 million bond to fund the construction on campus to accommodate the city’s ever-growing population and help ease over-crowding. Enrollment this year was 3,100 students.
Originally, the G Building was going to house all the freshman core classes; however, this will not be the case due to next year’s anticipated high freshman enrollment. Eight teams of freshmen teachers are slotted for the next academic year. Each team has four designated teachers, three of which will be in the new building with one teacher remaining in the D and/or C buildings. For example, there are only six science classrooms in the new building; therefore, there will be six freshman science teachers in the new building and two freshman science teachers remaining on C5.
This leads to the question: why build an expansion only to come up short? Does this mean the district will one day have to expand yet again because a lack of foresight? Assistant Principal Kris Davidson, who oversees the Freshman Academy, says it’s possible to fit all teachers in the three-story building. “If we do the shared math it is enough. We can fit all teachers in there; but, it would cause teachers to have to be in three different rooms throughout the day, and that just doesn’t really work.”
Davidson assures that teachers will have their own space this way. “Every freshman teacher for the most part will have their own room. Teachers will be in no more than 2 rooms during their day.”
Principal Dan Donovan also adds that the cost is a major issue as to why all freshmen classes will not be held in G Building. “We need $120 million to fit all the needs.”
The 100,000 square-foot G Building consists of 26 classrooms, two health rooms, two locker rooms, an office, a gym and a trainer’s room.
Each classroom in the building has two white boards with bulletin boards next to them. The classrooms all have new desks and chairs. In addition, each teacher has the ability to adjust the temperature in their air-conditioned classroom by four degrees.
The science rooms have six different lab stations with individual sinks and each room has its own prep materials. Furthermore, the rooms are being equipped with all new lab materials. The lab tables furnishing the room are adjustable and are handicapped accessible.
The G Building hallways also feature bulletin boards and do not have any lockers as the additional cost of lockers did not make financial sense when lockers in the other high school buildings are used infrequently. Additionally, each floor of the building has bathrooms that have connected sinks and more powerful hand dryers compared to the bathrooms in the older wings.
The first floor of G Building houses the new gym, which has the new rebranded Hatters logo in the middle and mats hanging from the roof. Donovan said this gym will likely become the wrestling gym. The building also has two health rooms, two locker rooms and a trainer’s room. The flooring on this floor is different so athletes won’t slip or wreck the floor with their cleats.
This building only has one entrance, which is through D Building. However, the bathrooms in the “Front Entrance” of the building may be open after school for the athletes and that area will also be a place to for students to shelter if there is a weather issue. Donovan says he can lock up the rest of the building and keep that area open.
This building does feature one office; however, the current staff in the D4 office will not be moving because it is too small to fit them all. Davidson joked about his disappointment that he won’t be getting his new office, “I thought I was going to get a brand new office. I am really excited for the kids, though. I think it will help with the transition. It’s new and it’s exciting.”
Incoming Freshman Kaylee Drago is excited about the benefits of the Freshman Academy. “It’s a smaller school [area for freshmen], so I will know my way around a little bit better and know where my classes are.”
Drago is eager to get started at the high school and the new Freshman Academy. “I’m looking forward to the air-conditioning, for one thing, but I’m also excited for a bigger school and getting [a] higher [level of] education.”
The Performing Arts Building — H Building — consists of a black box theater that holds about 100 people and music classrooms in which choir and orchestra classes will be conducted. Additionally, smaller school events may be held in the theater. This building is projected to be completed mid-July.
The next capital project for DHS will be replacing the track, which Donovan is hoping to do with any residual money from the additions.
Donovan and Davidson both hope that the new freshman building is treated with care and respect. “I hope they treat it as it should be treated,” Donovan said. “It’s a brand new space. I want them to treat it with respect, and I know they will.”