NPHS renovations making a good first impression

This is the design of the new fieldhouse at New Palestine High School, construction on which is expected to begin month on the site of the current softball complex. Once finished, it will serve as a temporary classroom site until all the interior renovations at the high school are completed.   Rendering provided

NEW PALESTINE — The front entrance to New Palestine High School has a brand new, black metal canopy. It’s just one of the many features added recently as the $49 million renovation project at the school continues.

In addition to the new look at the front entrance, bright red benches have been added outside, and the inside entrance is almost complete. Anderson, communications director for southern hancock schools, shows off the new work room for teachers at New Palestine High School. It’s one of the many parts of the $49 million makeover at the school.

The only thing missing in the entryway is the new flooring, which is expected to be installed soon.

“Things are really looking good,” Principal Jim Volez said. “We’re seeing something new added almost daily.”

Once the new floors are installed at the entrance, workers will put several new benches in place, giving people an inviting place to gather as they enter the school. The entrance will also have a large electronic screen to showcase the students and school highlights.

“For the longest time, we never had a place where the kids or visitors could sit and wait inside, and in a few weeks we’ll have that,” said Wes Anderson, communications director for Southern Hancock Schools.

For Voelz, each new development in the work pushes the project a day closer to completion, which is still 18 months to two years away.

OVERSET FOLLOWS:Still, he said, teachers and students have adapted well to working inside a construction zone and handling COVID issues.

“We just keep moving forward,” Voelz said. “I met with some teachers today who said they and students are doing great, and that’s what matters.”

Senior Cassie Almond said the construction work doesn’t even faze her and other students anymore. She’s just glad to be in school after missing many days last year due to COVID. About the only thing that bothers her is the fact she won’t get to enjoy all the improvements when they’re finished.

“That’s the thing. I wish I could go here when it’s all completed,” she said. “It’s going to look so neat. I love some of the new things I’m already seeing.”

The new athletic offices, which are where the old administrative and guidance staffs used to be located, are just about ready for athletic director Al Cooper and his staff. As soon as the baseboards are added, the athletic staff will move from its current offices in the middle of the building.

One of the things Cooper and coaches will get to enjoy is a new large conference room for signings and meetings, something they don’t have in their current location.

The new nursing area is also open and is massive. It is located in the portion of the school where the old front office used to be.

“This is not where we keep kids who get quarantined,” Anderson said, indicating they’ve thought of specialized areas for dealing with COVID.

Anderson was pretty excited to show how another entrance to the south of the main entrance will be the place most athletes enter as they head to the older gym, the new fieldhouse or the pool.

“We used to have that hall by the office lined with athletic photos from all the student-athlete accomplishments, so we’re going to try and make this that area once you get inside — our athletic showcase,” Anderson said.

He was also eager to show off the construction of classrooms and the new cafeteria in the back of the building that is well under way with large concrete walls and footers going in. The work shows major progress from when school started in August and the area had just been demolished.

The goal is to have students who are being taught inside temporary classrooms in the new fieldhouse out of that area by the start of the next school year and back into the main building. Anderson noted, however, that the nationwide shortage of building supplies might hold that up.

“We’re going to try to get things done, so the kids can be back in the main building next fall, but we’ll just have to wait and see how the supply chain is,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, we are a little behind right now.”

Waiting and working through is something officials at the high school have actually become good at, Voelz said. They’re just taking it a day at a time knowing once everything is complete, it will have been worth the wait.

“We’re getting little glimpses of how good everything is going to be, and we know it’s really going to be a great high school once these renovations are complete,” Voelz said. “I’m just proud of our teachers, staff and the students. We really want our seniors to have a great year, and despite everything, we think they are.”