Some students got a preview tour of the building before classes began and Superintendent Ty Sparks said they commented on how big the new building is compared to the old school.
“Watching the kids’ eyes light up when they went into the building was pretty rewarding,” Sparks said.
At 57,156 square feet with 33 classrooms and five computer labs, the new building gives George West Independent School District room to grow along with the rest of the community.
GWISD’s enrollment was on the decline 10 years ago; in 2002, there were 1,069 students, and now it’s coming back up. As of the end of last school year, enrollment was at 1,070 with 327 enrolled in the high school.
Ground was broken for the new building in March 2012 and demolition of the old building, built in 1956, occurred this summer. A district facilities study conducted in 2005 deemed the old building “educationally and economically obsolete,” and that upgrades and repairs would be less cost effective than just constructing a new building.
The new building is now sectioned off by subject, with science still in the west wing, and then other subjects disbursed throughout. The main foyer is equipped with tables and chairs for club meetings and studying underneath the flags of nearby colleges to set the academic mood and separate the east and west wings.
“It’s exciting and rewarding; exciting to have a facility the community can be proud of and rewarding to see the kids enjoying it,” Sparks said.
Because academia is an ever-changing field, the school is designed for whatever changes may come with Wi-Fi throughout the building in addition to conventional Internet connections. Even the desks are different, triangular-shaped so teachers can group students together for group-work or work individually.
Total cost of construction was $8.6 million for the new building, and like a house loan, the district will make payments for the next 30 years. But, Sparks anticipates paying it off early, thanks to the bond that passed in 2011.
“Mark Montgomery is our operations director for the school, but he is overseeing construction for the district along with me,” Sparks said. “He deserves a big part of the credit for this building and how nice it is and how well it has been done.”
A plan six years in the making, the new building is only phase two of GWISD’s construction. The first phase was the west wing of the new building, constructed in 2008, with new science labs along with upgrades for the junior high, elementary and primary school buildings.
Sparks said if the third phase of construction occurs, it would mean a new gym, band hall and other upgrades throughout the district.
Although the school is now in full use, construction remains ongoing. Sparks said the building is about 97 percent done, with just small details left and the front main entrance and breezeway to complete. He estimated completion for around the end of October.
An official grand opening for the community is anticipated for sometime in November.