By AMY WENGER
Members of the Wa-Nee Community Board of School Trustees have mapped out a plan of action for the next four years, with changes designed to improve security and the district’s five school buildings.
This year NorthWood High School will be the focus of the first construction effort.
As spring comes around, ground will be broken for a new addition for the primary entrances on the south side of the campus. This modified gateway will include offices and other amenities, as well as enhanced security features to help ensure the safety of students and staff.
“This project was moved forward and to the top of the list because the school board and administrators wanted to address security issues at the high school,” said Wa-Nee Superintendent Joe Sabo.
The cost of the NorthWood High School addition has been projected at just below $2 million with financing through general obligation bonds.
Subsequent phases of building renovations and upgrades are planned over the next three years for the three elementary schools — Nappanee, Woodview and Wakarusa — and NorthWood Middle School. Each project has a price estimate similar to the high school improvements.
Wa-Nee school trustees have been collaborating with the architectural firm of Barton-Coe-Vilamaa, Fort Wayne, to design the entrances and the office space, along with making improvements to bolster the efficacy of screening visitors before they are permitted into the building.
It’s expected to take nine months to complete the work.
The addition will extend south and end near the overhang that covers the walkways to the current access doors, including the main entrance and the one that opens near the gymnasium.
Both entries will boast two sets of doors and new facades, with the inner vestibules permitting access to the secretaries’ offices. The second set of doors will only be opened after guests have been buzzed in by school personnel.
Doors will be opened to the public during specific events, school officials said, including concerts and athletic functions, but will be kept locked during school hours.
Offices that will be located in the addition include those for the principal, assistant principal, athletic director, guidance counselors, resource officers, secretaries and the school nurse, school officials said.
“The office addition will provide that additional security at the main entrance and provide an office space for our school resource officer in the new addition,” Sabo said. “Security is the main factor.”
Other new features that will become part of the suite include a concession area, public restrooms, a meeting room, work and break rooms, testing locations and storage areas. An intercom system will be installed to allow for communication between visitors and support staff, and the inclusion of security cameras is also planned.
The board is accepting bids for the construction phase, which is expected to get under way as soon as weather permits. Bids will be reviewed and a recommendation brought before the board within the next few weeks.