Southside High School in Fort Smith, Ark., has begun a $45 million upgrade that will take place over the next two years.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the project encompasses more than 150,000 square feet of new and renovated space at the school.
Fort Smith Deputy Superintendent Terry Morawski says the school will get a new ninth grade center, a new secure administrative office and entryway at the front of the school, two tornado shelters that will also serve as gym and physical education support for the campus, and a competition gym with about 2,300 seats.
"Another great feature of that gym is that we currently do not have a facility on campus that can house the entire student body for an assembly, and that will be large enough," Morawski says.
The school's kitchen and cafeteria also will be expanded.
"The current cafeteria's undersized for the campus, so students are currently eating in hallways and classrooms and everywhere they can find space," Morawski says.
Other facets of the project include an expanded, two-story library media center and improvements to the front drive and general parking flow of the entire campus.
The district expects the project to be completed by August 2021.
The budget estimate for the projects is about $45 million, Morawski says. This funding came from a tax increase that voters approved in May 2018. It will generate a total of about $120 million for multiple projects in the school district.
Southside Principal Lisa Miller says the greatest thing the upgraded facilities will bring is an opportunity for freshmen to participate in a high school community.
"I think it's really important for freshmen to feel like they're a part of the high school experience because freshman year, in my opinion, is the foundation of all of that," says Miller.