The $25 million renovation of Belgrade High School isn’t finished yet, but teachers and administrators were ready for the more than 1,000 students who walked through its doors for the first day of school Wednesday morning.
“High school construction is still going on, but we expected that,” said Superintendent Godfrey Saunders Wednesday morning. “Every building is ready.”
On Monday, as construction crews worked inside out almost every area of the high school, Principal Paul Lamb promised that the building would be “100 percent accessible” to students on the first day. Now that school has started, Martel Construction will work during evening hours until the project is complete, he said.
Belgrade High School is growing by about 50 students per year. Last year there were 960 enrolled students, and this year there are over 1,000. Projections indicate that “we’re going to quickly get to 1,100, but it should level out after that,” Lamb said.
When the renovation is finished, the school will be able accommodate 1,200 to 1,300 students. Thanks to its growth, Belgrade High is now a designated AA school.
The high school renovation “looks very different than the beginning architectural concepts,” Lamb said. For example, it was decided to add a dedicated wrestling area so that wrestlers won’t need to share space with the basketball team during peak season.
The additional space also makes room for alternative school students to attend classes on the high school campus instead of a separate building in the Bruce Industrial Park.
The most prominent features of the renovation include a brand-new second floor, new kitchens for culinary arts classes, a new business classroom for the expanding business program, new band and choir rooms, professional standard metal and wood shops, a second gym, and new spaces for art classes, including a ceramics studio, darkroom and graphic design studio.
Administrative and counseling offices won’t be finished until mid- to late October, Lamb said, as the priority has been to finish the student facilities first.
Saunders said the district hired cleaning companies to help get the building ready, and volunteers helped teachers prepare their rooms for the first day.
“It’s going to be a magnificent facility when it’s all said and done,” Saunders said.
“We’re anxious to get the school started with the new environment we have,” Lamb added. “It’s going to be a good year all around.”
The community will be invited to an open house to tour the building in early November, after construction is finished.