DEARBORN, Mo. — The weather cooperated and gave the North Platte R-I District a sun-splashed morning to hold a groundbreaking ceremony last week.
Officials made sure to thank voters — some of whom showed up Friday, Dec. 1 — for the pending construction project set to start in the next week. A select group of students joined members of the administration and board of education to don hard hats and pick up special shovels on the flattened dirt site of the future junior high school.
“I’d like to welcome everyone and thank you for being here for our groundbreaking of our new junior high addition,” North Platte superintendent Karl Matt said. “It’s a historic day, and we’re pretty excited about the new memories that will be made in this building.”
North Platte’s Board of Education approved Universal Construction of Lenexa, Kan. for the project. Officials still expect the new building to be open in time for the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Last year, work began on a long-range facility plan with Incite Design Studio brought on to provide preliminary plans. Voters approved a no-tax increase proposal to fund $6.2 million worth of planned projects, starting with the junior high centerpiece.
“I’d like to thank our staff for working with us to create some of our priorities and looking at how we would fit in this year with no junior high,” Matt said. “I’d also like to thank you students. I know it’s not been a typical year, as far as squeezing in. You’ve done a great job, and we’re real proud of your behavior in the hallways as it’s been more crowded.
“In the end, it’s going to be worth it with a brand new building we’re going to see next year.”
To prepare, the district tore down the 1930 portion of the junior high school, which served as the original high school location. Matt said most of the building additions from 1955, 1963 and 1985 remain standing.
The new construction will measure 21,000 square feet, and there will be about 2,000 square feet of renovation. While there will be classroom space for core subjects, the school will also add a special education room, a computer technology classroom, a computer lab, therapy rooms and a new office.
Renovations will help create room for both the choir and band programs.
With construction ongoing throughout the year, accommodations — including mobile classrooms — have been made to help minimize disruptions. Current junior high students also attended the groundbreaking, and afterward, officials showed a slide show to help give them an idea of what the new building will look like.
“Today is very memorable for me. It’s exciting,” said North Platte junior/senior high principal Michelle Johnson, a 1989 graduate. “Lots of memories happened here at the old junior high, but it’s time for these students — and the students to come — to make new memories. They deserve to be in a new building that’s nice and fresh.
“We have an excellent education program here at North Platte, and I’m sure this building is only going to make that stronger.”
Mike Fisher, president of the board of education and a 1982 graduate of North Platte, remembers being afraid of a levy proposal seven years ago to fund the construction of North Platte Intermediate School in Edgerton, Mo. Going back to the voters for this project caused the same nerves, but about 80 percent of voters supported the measure.
While there were times former students reflected on the nostalgia, Fisher praised the voters for aligning with the district’s vision for moving forward.
“I’d like to thank the patrons of North Platte for voting this in,” said Fisher, who said his 12-year tenure on the board will finish in April. “This is a long time coming. This building was old. It needed to go. Like I said, I graduated out of it. Was I sad to see it go? No. I wasn’t. I’m excited to see something new.”