(Photo by MIchelle Felter, Staff)
BENTON -- For its 50th birthday, the Kelly School District is getting something it has wanted for the past several years: an addition to its campus, which will house most of the high school classrooms.
And on Tuesday evening, about 400 faculty, students, parents and other district residents came to celebrate at the school's dedication, reception and open house.
"There have been a lot of additions over the years, but this is a major add-
on," said Superintendent Don Moore. "This is a very exciting day for us."
Located on Highway 77, just outside of Benton, the original building opened Aug. 29, 1957.
The signs of construction were still evident. A new smell filled the building and the walls were still immaculately white. Written with a marker, pieces of paper distinguished the men's and women's bathroom. Some computers had yet to be set up in the media room. And the floor in the multipurpose room was concrete, not yet rubberized. "It should be there by the end of August," Moore assured.
However, students and parents were impressed with the new facilities. "I like it," said Heather Nicosin, who will be a junior. "It's different from the old school -- it's a lot bigger."
High School principal Tom Hulshof agreed. "They'll notice a lot more space -- they won't feel so crowded," he said. "They'll be able to have a little breathing room."
Another positive is that students will no longer have to share lockers, Nicosin pointed out. Classrooms are bigger, Moore said, measuring about 30 by 30 feet. And the three mobile units that were on the campus were removed. "That's one of the best things," Moore said.
Sharon Welker, who was touring the school with her son Michael Keykendall, who will be a freshman, said she "loved" the addition. "It's really great," she said.
Roy Hayes, the first superintendent of the district, which was formed from five schools, spoke during the ceremony. "This was one of the first schools to be built in a corn field in a rural area," he said. Hayes shared his memories, as well as gave a timeline of how the first school was built.
Another past superintendent, Dr. Jerry Waddle, also spoke. "I almost missed the turn, because I was looking for the white house," he laughed, referring to the building that housed the superintendent's office which has been removed from the premises. He commended the district for not giving up in their initiative. "You've made a wise investment in your youth in this community," he said.
United States Representative Kenny Hulshof said being there was "an honor and a privilege." A 1976 graduate, he said: "even though the times have changed, the mission of this school is exactly the same -- helping students to succeed."
A group of teachers presented a PowerPoint with a timeline of how the district has grown over the past 50 years. And State Senator Jason Crowell presented the school with a 50-year honorary Senate resolution.
The new building cost about $3.69 million and was funded with a no tax-
increase bond issue. Sixteen classrooms, including a new library and media center and multipurpose room, make up the building, Moore said. Some classes, including band, special education, art and vocational agriculture, will continue to be taught in the older classrooms.
Adjacent to the library, the media center will have 30 some computers. Teachers will be able to reserve the room for their classes, Hulshof said.
Middle and high school students will now eat lunch in the multipurpose room, instead of the elementary cafeteria. "So the crowding in the cafeteria, the hurrying to eat lunch will end," said the high school principal. Physical education classes will also be taught there.
There is not a kitchen in the new facility, so food will be prepared in the old kitchen and carted to the multipurpose room. However, Moore said the building was designed to be expanded, and he hopes to eventually add a kitchen to that room.
And the rooms were built with the future in mind. Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Alvina Mainord said she had Internet hookups installed by the counter that will hold sewing machines "because that's the future."
She said she likes her new room, which is both bigger and laid out more efficiently. "It's laid out more elongated so we have more square footage for the students to work in," Mainord said.
Moore said the science labs are also updated. "They are so much more conducive to doing research and experiments," he said.
Hulshof said students have come in and said "wow, look at all this room." He suspects several students, as well as himself, are looking forward to the first day of school on Thursday.
"The first day is going to be a new experience for all of us," Hulshof said. "For some of them, when they walk in Thursday morning, this will be the first time they may see the school."