SHS addition is on track, under budget
by Emily Adams
Construction workers Joey Williams and Reid Carden complete the piping for what will be a science lab station in one of the high school addition’s 31 classrooms.
SYLACAUGA – Construction of the $7.8 million addition at Sylacauga High School is on track for completion in early April and is currently about $300,000 under budget, City Schools Maintenance Supervisor Johnny Gray said Friday.

“This has been my 21st construction job to be involved in, and it has gone as good or better than any other, and this, as a whole, is a complicated building in a very small area,” Gray said.

The 60,000 square foot, two-story wing houses 31 classrooms – including six advanced science labs, computer labs and areas for Family and Consumer Science and math classes – that have now taken shape. First Team Construction Superintendent Wade Peterson said work is about 60 percent complete, and they and hope to have full power in the building after Christmas.

“As soon as we get the sheetrock finished up, we’ll get light fixtures going and try to get air conditioning and heat turned on,” Peterson said. “Power is coming in about a week and a half.”

Construction is ahead of schedule in some places and behind in others, Peterson said, but overall, the project has seen few obstacles since it began in fall 2011.

The addition, which is Phase 1 of a three-phase project to renovate 70 percent of SHS in the next five years, will eventually be equipped with the latest and best in classroom technology, security and energy. Features will include a completely wireless Internet system, automatic lights, key card entries for staff, security cameras with a live feed available through wireless access, two built-in hallway display cases and six flatscreen TVs throughout the hallways to display announcements.

The addition’s spacious science classrooms are on-par with college-level labs and have a plethora of safety features. Every classroom will have cable TV, recessed screens, a projector, in-room speakers, a document camera, a lanyard microphone, HDMI cables for wireless access and a slate (similar to a tablet or iPad). The building’s wireless system was strategically chosen to handle heavy traffic, said City Schools Technology Director Mike Robinson.

“With other systems, you fire up 50 laptops, or 20, and you’ve killed it, where the wireless we’re putting in could handle every kid having a wireless device,” he said.

Another appreciated and money-saving feature will be individual classroom heating and air using Mitsubishi products.

“This is the same system we put at Indian Valley two summers ago, and we’ve had an average of $3,000 a month utility savings since that time,” he said. “Plus, teachers think I’m the best thing since sliced bread because they can control their own classroom.”

The exterior is also taking shape with brick that is a close match to the existing school and concrete-type accents along the top and corners. The building will have a light brown tin roof.

Phase 2 of the project will be put out for bid in the next two to three months, Gray said, with intentions to start it before Phase 1 is complete. It entails renovating the front entrance and expanding the administration area, while Phase 3 involves expanding the gymnasium. The cost of the entire renovation is expected to be around $20 million.

Gray said years of planning went into the school’s redesign, which they trust will drastically improve educational opportunities for the high school’s 750 students.

“We built a state-of-the-art middle school in 2004, and then we sent these students in their college and career prep days to an antiquated high school,” Gray said. “The whole goal is to get them into a state-of-the-art high school to help them with college and career preparedness and give them every opportunity to be successful in the future.”

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© 2012