When constructed in 1966, a girls-only gymnasium made sense for Monticello High School. But with coed classes being the norm for decades, a new use – instead of as overflow physical education and practice space – has been on the mind of administrators for several years.
The district has now accomplished that by converting it into chorus and agriculture classrooms. It also marks the first renovated space to be put to use in the ongoing $35 million construction and renovation project at the high school and adjacent Washington Elementary school. While some finishing touches like curtains and trim are needed, teachers and students began using the rooms last week.
Although central heat will not come until next week (portable heaters are being put to good use for now), choir director Tricia Shaw is giving her room rave reviews, especially when compared to the underground room she inhabited previously.
“The students are able to hear each other much better than before, which really helps with tuning. We also have improved focus as there are few distractions here. We used to be under Miller Gym, so we could hear footsteps, basketballs, etc. More than that, this has improved our commitment to a high standard of music making,” said Shaw.
“This has been so rejuvenating for me personally as well as the students. I look at this room and see the choral program that we can build together,” added Shaw, a 14-year teacher at Monticello.
For years, district officials have felt the so-called “pit gym” – called that due to the floor being about 6 feet below an adjacent hallway – could be of more use on a day-to-day basis. But besides the below grade floor, it could only be reached through stairs that led from a girls locker room.
The current building and renovation project – which adds a competition-style gymnasium – gave them their chance. If the floor could be raised and the rooms accessed from main hallways, it could be better tied, educationally, into the high school.
“The district had looked for a way to remodel that space several times over the years and was never able to come up with a feasible plan due to the floor being below grade. The idea was to raise the floor and access the rooms from the hallway,” said Superintendent Vic Zimmerman.
“The idea came from (architect) BLDD and it was an excellent idea,” added Zimmerman.
Once the district committed to building another gymnasium, it made even more sense, since the campus will now have Moore and Miller gyms along with the brand new Buz Sievers Center, which should be completed by August.
“We don’t need four gyms on campus,” added Zimmerman.
There is still work to do. Besides the wait on heat, the walls are pretty bare at this point. But agriculture instructor Elizabeth Rost said it won’t be long before she and her students make the new, larger ag room their own.
“We are getting new high top tables with wheels in a few weeks, and this will allow a great deal of flexibility between class work and lab activities. We plan to have an AG/ART senior paint an FFA mural on one wall that will showcase the history of Monticello FFA, including our past FFA awards, plaques and pictures,” said Rost. “This room allows us the space to bring some plants into the classroom from the greenhouse as well. We are all just very excited for the opportunities this new space will provide for us.”
Auditorium is next
Next up? Completion of a significant high school auditorium remodel. Contractors are working feverishly to get it done in time for the spring musical, “Mama Mia,” to be performed there on Feb. 20-23.
The room started to look more like a performance room again when the permanent seats were installed last week.
In a construction update given to the school board on Jan. 15, contractors and architects also reported that:
–drywall work has begun in the new science classroom wing. Acoustic ceiling work started this week. The new construction has also been connected to existing high school hallways;
–auditorium work to be done includes painting of the stage floor, installation of diffusers, and putting in carpet, lights and curtains;
–the new mechanical room is nearly complete, with painting being one of the last tasks besides siding on the outside, which will wait until warmer weather;
–rough-ins for electrical and plumbing continues, which will be followed by drywall for the 14-classroom addition. Two skylights have arrived and will be installed soon;
–Work continues on the Arthur Buz Sievers center, as painting has begun. Outside windows need to be installed and rough-in work continues.
Zimmerman said asbestos work will need to be done prior to the high school renovation portion of the project, which will be the focus starting this summer. Most of it will be to remove asbestos in caulking so that windows can be replaced. Tile in locker rooms under Moore Gymnasium may also need to be abated if there is asbestos present.