Lowell Middle School has been under construction for more than a year. In recent weeks some of the most visible aspects of the multiple-year project have been seen with the front of the building being demolished. Updates for this area include a new main office, new cafeteria, auditorium renovation, and an updated choir room.
Milestones from the 2021-22 School Year
The biggest change that took place during the past school year was opening the two-story classroom addition where 7th and 8th grade student academic classrooms and locker commons are located. The new media center in the building was also opened for student use.
Several other aspects of the Middle School project were completed during the past school year. A new band room and orchestra room, new special education classrooms, new art room, and new technology offices were finished. Students were able to start using these areas as they were finalized. Exterior milestones include new parking lot loops in the back of the building to aid with student drop-off and new tennis courts.
Summer Work Completed
As summer break wraps up, so do some aspects of construction so the building is ready to welcome back students. The biggest change students will see inside the building is the completion of the 6th grade wing. Old classrooms will be renovated to update learning spaces. The old media center will now serve as the 6th grade locker commons.
A new kitchen and serving area will also be completed by the time school starts later this month. Additionally, a new health classroom is ready to use. This classroom will also have working sinks and kitchen equipment so students can learn how to prepare healthy meals.
The old media center showcased a mural designed by local artist Joseph Kinnebrew. Unfortunately, it could not be saved as part of the construction process. Photos were taken of the old mural by Bruce Doll so that it may be preserved digitally and a new mural has been created. The new mural incorporates elements of the old mural with photographs of the community taken by Doll.
Construction into the New School Year
As the new school year starts, construction will continue on the front of the building. Replacement sewer line to Foreman Street will be installed, the choir room and corridor renovation will continue, construction of the new cafeteria and bathrooms in that area will take place, renovation of the auditorium and construction of the new main office will also take place.
“The good news is that most of the classroom spaces will be complete to start the school year, but there are a number of disruptions outside of the classroom wings that we will need to deal with,” says Superintendent Nate Fowler.
During the first half of the year, one corridor will be under construction. Students will have to use the gym to get from one end of the building to the other. Fowler notes that physical education teachers have been “awesome about sharing their space so the school can function.”
Students will eat lunch in future STEAM classrooms and lab. Choir classes will be in that area as well until their remodeled classroom is ready. The main office will be temporarily located in a classroom. Counselors and administrators will have offices in classroom wings. “While inconvenient, it is a great opportunity for them to be closer to students and teachers during the school day,” comments Fowler.
Project On Schedule and within Budget
A 7 mil levy to sell bonds was passed by voters in 2019 that raised over $52 million. Fowler provided the following information on where funds have been allocated.
- Approximately $6.4 million was budgeted for updates at the high school that included mechanical improvements, technology upgrades and the improved athletic facilities.
- $11.1 million went towards projects at the elementary schools
- New classrooms
- Enclose open classrooms
- Air conditioning for all classrooms
- Air conditioning for all classrooms
- Update classrooms
- Cherry Creek
- Secure entrance
- New roof
- Murray Lake
- New entrance to improve traffic flow
- Middle School
- $35.2 million
To date, all projects have come in under budget. “We were conservative in the design process,” states Fowler. “The projects went out to bid before the design process so we were fortunate to lock in pricing before we saw inflation in construction prices and other sectors of the economy.”
Lowell Middle School will continue to be under construction for another year and is ahead of schedule for completion while remaining under budget. Initially, construction was to wrap up well into the 2023-24 school year, however, the district is hoping to have things completed before the start of the next school year.
Estimates to build an entirely new middle school were about $50 million according to Folwer. It was significantly cheaper to remodel and build the addition in the back. The school board and previous administration felt this route was more cost-effective with the same result of providing students with the best possible learning environment.
“The new learning spaces were designed to promote student collaboration and open areas for collective work,” says Dan Vander Meulen, Director of Curriculum. “For example, the science rooms have a window separating two classrooms that can be open or closed for teachers and students to work together. There are open conference rooms located around the new learning commons areas for kids to interact with each other.”
The upcoming school year will continue to be out of the norm with adjustments being made as projects within the building are started and completed. Student drop-off and pick-up will continue to be dicey until the front of the building is complete. In the end, an updated learning environment for students, teachers, and staff with help further the education process for Lowell Middle School students.
Fowler concludes with, “Thank you to teachers, custodians, bus drivers, the technology team, and families for your patience, flexibility, and dedication to our students during this exciting process.”