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The central and south entrances to the front of Altus High School are currently closed due to construction. The south entrance will lead to the new library when school begins this fall, and the central entrance will lead to the athletic department and classrooms. The school’s main office was relocated to the north entrance, which was re-opened in August of 2011. The aerial photo, taken before the work began in the front of the building, shows the new wing and central courtyard.
Altus will begin the 2012-2013 school year with high school students attending classes in a state-of-the-art, modern building, without the current safety issues that can arise when students cross Park Lane for classes. Currently, Altus High School students attend classes in a college-like atmosphere, in several buildings spread over a 32-acre campus. This creates a situation that causes about 300 students per hour to cross the busy Park Lane.
The two year-long construction and renovation project will finally be complete this summer, keeping all students under one roof next fall, except when attending special classes such as music, band, or gym. However, no students will have to walk across Park Lane for classes.
As this article is being written, the finishing touches are underway on Phase Two of the construction and renovation project. Phase Two has been the complete renovation of the west (front of building) and south wings of the main building. The hallways and classrooms were gutted, maintaining only the original 1930s-era brick exterior of the building.
Currently, construction workers are painting the new classrooms, installing ceiling tiles and classroom floors, and preparing to redo the terrazzo floors in the west and south hallways. The foundation is being set for the causeway, which will connect the newly constructed east wing with the renovated south wing, making the upper floor of AHS a complete square. Steelwork for the causeway will begin the first week of May.
With the construction and renovation project nearly finished, school officials are pleased and optimistic about the future. “I can’t believe how well it’s gone,” said Dr. Mark Haught, AHS principal. “The kids have responded, and the construction workers have treated us very well, and everything’s just been really positive. When you know something good is coming, then the temporary inconveniences really aren’t a problem.”
“One of the surprises that we’ve discovered as we’ve moved into the portion already completed, is just how convenient and accessible the building has become, due to the ramps at every entrance and the new elevator,” he added. “The layout of the building will be much more convenient now, as well. It will be much easier for my assistant principals and me to supervise the students.”
The new Altus High School will boast 64 classrooms, nine computer labs, 13 restrooms, a library media center, and numerous offices and workrooms. Most of the new classrooms are about the size of two classrooms in the previous AHS, and all classrooms will now have smart boards, computers, and a great deal more storage space, with cabinets and drawers being installed where there previously were none.
The new science classrooms, which were completed last summer, are much larger than in the past and are better suited for conducting hands-on labs and science projects. “The technology in there is really state-of-the-art,” said Dr. Haught. The new art classrooms are much more efficient as well and have much-needed natural lighting.
The building has been constructed with the future in mind. Somewhere around 104 miles of data wiring has been installed in the building, connecting every classroom and work area to the Internet. A wifi network is also in place in the building. In addition, the new building will have 1,300 lockers installed, as well as a few extra classrooms, which will provide ample room, should Altus see a growth in student numbers.
One thing the students are excited about is the new brick stage being built outside in the school’s central courtyard, which will be a great area for school dances, pep rallies, and other programs. The courtyard will be landscaped, and students will be able to enjoy the area before and after school or during breaks. The courtyard will be closed off in the evenings by an overhead gate that will drop down from the causeway on the southeast corner of the building.
The new construction and renovation project at the 1930s-era Altus High School building is being funded by the MAPS for Altus sales tax issue, which passed in August of 2008, by more than 75 percent. “We would like to thank the citizens of Altus for their continued efforts to improve our city and our schools,” said Altus Superintendent Bob Drury. “Our schools reflect the tradition and pride of our community, and the overwhelming support of MAPS shows that the citizens of Altus understand the importance of maintaining our schools.”
The city/school combined sales tax issue was a first for Altus, and reflected the first time Altus Public Schools has received additional local funding for school construction in over 50 years. The district’s $17 million portion of the sales tax proceeds was designated for the modernization of Altus High School.
Bids were opened January 27, 2010, coming in at $12.7 million, significantly lower than anticipated. “That will give the district the funds not only to cover unforeseen circumstances that may arise in the renovation, but also to expand the project or do some additional things to make the school outstanding,” said Joe D. Hall, project construction manager.
School district officials met for over a year with Boynton Williams and Associates, the architectural firm selected for the project, to finalize the plans for the project. Construction on the new wing began over Christmas Break in 2009, and the entire project is on schedule to be finished during the summer of 2012.
The Altus High School renovation plans called for retaining the exterior walls of building, while gutting the interior, reconfiguring the floor plan, and bringing all classrooms up to date with the latest technology. The building’s windows have been replaced, and a new roof and new heating and air conditioning units have been installed. The high school library/media center, now in the city’s Hightower Park across the street, will be moved to the renovated southwest corner of the building. A new classroom wing now runs north to south behind the existing building, with a center atrium between the old construction and portions of the new. The historical character of the building is being maintained, thanks to the attention to detail by architect Christian Ballard of Boynton Williams and Associates.
“So far, the project has been on or ahead of schedule, and we are pleased with the work of construction manager Joe D. Hall and his team,” said Mr. Bob Drury, superintendent of Altus Schools.
The final touches on the Altus High School construction and renovation project are slated to be complete by the end of July, said Pat Burk construction supervisor. At that time, all of the teachers who have been holding class in various buildings across Park Lane will be able to move their materials into the main building to prepare for the 2012-2013 school year.
“I’ve been very impressed with the students at Altus High School,” said Mr. Burk. “They are not getting into or interfering with the construction area, and they have been very understanding and helpful,” he said. “That all comes from Dr. Haught and his principals and teachers. In other schools where I’ve worked, the kids aren’t respected and so they don’t have respect for the construction project. Here, they are respected, and so they show respect themselves, and they’ve been great to work with,” added Mr. Burk.
“The new construction and renovation has been a source of pride for our students,” said Dr. Haught. “This whole project has been a really wonderful experience, and we cannot thank the community enough. They have just stepped up and supported us through this project, like they always do.”