(Courtesy Photo/Michael Schutt/Schutt Photography)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Kicking-off construction of the school’s new secondary campus, Owosso Public Schools celebrated with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Friday, March 1. The event involved a lengthy and exceedingly conscientious planning effort by the administration, school board, the architects and numerous groups involved after voters approved the $45-plus million bond in November 2017.
Prior to the groundbreaking event, OPS Superintendent Dr. Andrea Tuttle offered a project overview to the public in the auditorium to demonstrate plans for the new middle school and high school campus. Tuttle was careful to explain how “bids aren’t out on the project yet, so things might change depending on how the bids come in.” The bidding process represents the next phase in the OPS secondary (6th through 12th-grade) campus construction. More information is available under the “district news” section at www.owosso.k12.mi.us.
In reviewing the plans, the most obvious new construction is the performance arts center to be showcased on the southern end of the current structure, which will include both high school and middle school vocal rehearsal rooms, along with separate areas for the high school and middle school bands. The performing arts building will be connected by a corridor to the front of the current media center area. The media center, which will be similar to a collegiate union-style area for study, will also be divided appropriately for the middle school and high school, keeping them separate.
Once entering the media center area, the middle school will primarily fall to the west, while the high school will fall to the east and north. It should be noted that both the middle school and high school will have individual main entrance points, inclusive of modern safety features, such as a double buzz-in vestibule at both. The middle school main entrance will be directly opposite of the high school entrance along what is currently the dividing hall, roughly south of the current auditorium space. That space will, in turn, become a fitness area and a multi-purpose room (indoor plaza), partitioned with a mostly glass wall, and will be sandwiched between the two school office areas.
Due to the construction of the utilities that will be running underneath the performing arts center, the current bus loop is no longer accessible and adjustments have been made. As of Monday, March 4, the “freshmen” parking lot became the temporary bus loop for the early portion of construction. It is no longer a student drop-off zone. Eventually the parking area will be enlarged to serve both the performing arts center and to become a true 100-yard practice marching band field, lines included, for the band program. From the “freshmen” parking area, now band practice area, a two-lane access road will round to the southwest of the middle school, eventually becoming three-lanes, offering a queue for parents dropping off middle-school students. The access road will circumnavigate the school, offering a similar drop-off for high school students.
Other plans outlined by Tuttle during the project overview described the multi-purpose room, capable of seating 144 students, as a quieter location for students to use during lunches or for study. She also shared that the robotics group might also use the space. In front of the multi-purpose area, two rooms are currently set aside, possibly for robotics and also for a store for OPS spirit merchandise. Also, the cafeteria, due to be remodeled with more seating along the perimeter, will be used by middle school and high school students, though lunches will strictly be separated, as they have always been.
As for the style of the secondary campus, drop-ceilings will be removed in hallways and eventually painted a deep Trojan blue with all new lighting, sporting an industrial look. Colors used throughout the campus will be in the same Trojan blue and gold. Finished concrete floors will be used in most common areas, offering both durability and affordability. The administration and school board have been considerate of every dollar afforded to this project through the bond – the prime focus being to create a modern educational environment to enhance student learning and opportunity.
Tuttle shared that the majority of construction work will take place during the summer breaks of 2019 and 2020. The overall plan is for the project to be finished in early 2021, if not earlier depending on the bidding and construction process.