There are many numbers involved in quantifying the construction of a new school: costs, doors, seats, weight room equipment, geothermal wells, inches of concrete, but at the heart of it all are the students. is the quality of education they receive.
That’s the foundation past and present leaders of the Ames School District have said will lie beneath the new Ames High School, which the district celebrated Saturday with a ribbon-cutting and public tour.
Superintendent Julious Lawson said that while the new high school is physically impressive, what surprises him most is the “power of the learning environment created within.”
In 2018 voters approved a $137 million project. While millions of dollars of work remains to be done, including completing the school’s auditorium, greenhouse, outdoor classrooms, playground, and tearing down the old high school still next door, the school opened to its first students on Wednesday.
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Among those students, third-year student Caleb Dierks led a tour group on Saturday.
Dierks is involved in track, soccer, and cross-country, and plays Sousaphone in the band, so the new indoor running track (9 laps in a mile) around the main gym and the new band room are key features. However, Deeks is also a dramatic tech in theater, so the new auditorium may be the most meaningful space.
“I’m happy to have this nice big theater,” Deeks said.
Dave Litchfield of Kelly, who graduated from Ames Class in 1977 on one of Deeks’ tours, played track, football and basketball in high school.
“At the time, I thought we had great facilities,” said Litchfield, who couldn’t help but be impressed with the new school.
Litchfield remembered one set of free weights and one universal machine for the entire school compared to the new row of equipment in the new school’s weight room.
Inside the new school, everyone seems to have their favorite features and spaces.
Third-year student Manab Jaily appreciates the academic pod. This is a delimited cluster of classrooms and co-working spaces that “make you feel like you’re in something new.”
Similarly, freshman Leo Sullivan appreciates the comfortable seating in the pod’s open area, allowing him to relax for a few minutes during transit.
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Junior Akshay Sarda likes a soundproof bandroom where the lights don’t make noise.
Across the hall, choir assistant director Sonia Johnson enjoyed that the choir room was designed with music and student needs in mind. Something as simple but important as having a fountain in the room.
Johnson also likes the sound, lighting, design and new auditorium that feels smaller than before, even though it has more seating.
As for some more numbers to quantify the new high school, Lawson and former superintendent Tim Taylor and district facilities director Jerry Peters, who cut the ribbon Saturday, said the school will have 1,800 students. It has an overall capacity of 1,600 including classroom space.
Peters said the school opened this fall with about 1,500 high school students.
The main competition gym can accommodate over 1,800 spectators, with 485 spectators above the new pool and 180 sitting in the practice gym. The new auditorium will hold approximately 950 people.
The school is cooled and heated by over 300 geothermal wells, each drilled 400 feet deep. And his 11.5-inch concrete roof on the practice gym is a storm shelter against potential atmospheric turbulence.
Vice Principal Nicole Patton said, “We are grateful for the gifts the people of Ames have given us.”
That sentiment was echoed by school board member Alisa Fransen, who was chairman at the time voters approved the bond issue to pay for the project, and Taylor, who was superintendent at the time.
“It couldn’t be any other way,” Taylor said, thanking the community.
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Phillip Sitter is responsible for education at Ames Tribune, which includes PreK-12 schools at Iowa State University, Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is on his Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.