More than seven years after York school leaders set in motion plans for a new high school and technology center, teachers this week began moving into spacious new digs.
Some of them can hardly believe it’s real.
“It’s really hard to put into words,” said Senior Chief Scott Moss, one of three instructors in the high school’s Navy ROTC unit, which enrolls about 175 students, and was housed in mobile units at the old high school. “It’s been like a dream.”
Moss was unpacking materials in the new ROTC classroom area last week with students Marshal Martin, 16, and Douglas Long, 15, who seemed equally impressed. Said Moss: “One day, we’re going to look back at this and say we were the first to be there and do that. We’re going to be part of this history.”
The new $78 million York Comprehensive High School and $18 million adjacent Floyd D. Technology Center, on 130 acres at Alexander Love Highway and Lincoln Road, opens for class Aug. 18. But teachers were allowed to begin moving in this week. Students begin visiting Friday, Aug. 6, through Tuesday, Aug. 10, for schedule changes.
The custom-designed school, which expects to enroll about 1,450 students in grades nine to 12, was funded by an $85 million bond approved by voters in 2007 — four years after an initial failed effort to win approval. The new building enables freshmen, who did not attend the old school, to attend the high school.
Principal Diane Howell said school leaders and the community used the time to gather input to plan York’s ideal school. They developed the plans with the project’s architect, LS3P Associates Ltd., and general contractor, Edifice Inc.
“You won’t find another school like this one,” she said. “Everyone from the custodians to the clerical employees to the teachers had a chance” to offer input on the design.
They started with blocks of classrooms that evolved into classroom wings, she said. The shape of the land on which the school sits and the sunlight it receives were critical factors.
“You see a lot of skylights in this school,” Howell said. “The entire building is positioned so it makes very good use of natural light.”
The media center, with airy, high ceilings and a large computer lab, is at the heart of the school, one of the goals. “Our district is focusing on literacy,” said Superintendent Vernon Prosser. “Having that at the heart of the school is the best thing about the design.”
But that’s just one of the advantages of the new school. Computers and Internet access, located throughout the school, will help teachers do their jobs better.
And each teacher will have his or her own classroom, so they don’t have to roam to different rooms, as they did at the old school. “You can make better use of your time,” she said.
The new facilities will enable the technology center to offer two new programs this year: culinary arts and a “green” buiding technology program, said director Ron Roveri.
Lauren DeLoach, the program’s new culinary arts program, said students can expect to prepare food in quantities for school functions. The program has an attached dining room for 60.
“I would like to use that facility as much as I can the first year for meals, fundrasiers, for the school,” said DeLoach, who earned a master’s degree in culinary arts education at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. “I’m pretty excited to see where this is going to be able to go, and what the students can do.”
The technology center already offers 16 career clusters and 34 majors, including 11 college-level courses that offer dual credit through York Technical College, Roveri said. “With this facility, we’ll be able to do more and expand on that,” Roveri said.
Howell said school leaders have been busy planning and scheduling to minimize chaos as students learn their way around the school and adjust to new schedules.
Schedule changes include eliminating a 10-minute break at the end of first period — students will have five minutes between each class — and lengthening the three lunch periods by five minutes, to a total of 30 minutes for lunch. The high school day will begin and end slightly later, running from 8:32 a.m. until 3:40 p.m.
Howell said maps of the school have been mailed to families to help students get acclimated, and student guides will be present to help them find their way around.
But Howell isn’t worried. “I think they’ll find their way around in two days,” she said.
Following are some of the features of the new York Comprehensive High School:
The colors of red, blue and green in the foyer and other areas represent the school’s history. The old school was the result of a merger of three schools — the York High School Green Dragons, the Hickory Grove High School Cardinals and the Jefferson High School Blue Devils. Halls are also color coded in red, green and blue.
The new two-story school has straight hallways, elevators and stairwells, unlike the old, single-level school which had a circular design.
Every classroom is equipped with learning technology: Promethian boards, audio sound and Internet access. Every teacher has a laptop to use and take home.
The school has three different gymnasiums, to accomodate different sports and other activities. The largest gym, which can seat up to 2,000 people, includes a walking track around the top and an exercise room for teachers.
A performance theater/auditorium that can accommodate 1,000 spectators is located in the fine arts wing, near the choral hall, drama room and band hall.
The school makes uses of “green” technology to be more energy efficient. For example, rooms include slanted ceilings to take advantage of natural light. And the lights automatically cut on and off when a person enters or leaves.
Security is improved. Visitors enter a foyer with access on the left to administrative offices and on the right to counseling; doors to the rest of the school are locked to control access.
The four core academic courses for ninth-grade students are clustered on one hall to ease their transition to high school. They will go to other parts of the school for electives.
The new football stadium has two air-conditioned press boxes, one for each team. It has ample seating for disabled spectators. The $200,000 artificial turf field was provided courtesy of the NFL Grassroots Grants program, which pairs teams like the Carolina Panthers with nearby schools. York was one of 16 school districts nationally to win such a grant in 2009.
York will begin a new grade structure this fall, as ninth-grade students move to the new high school. Here are other changes:
The former high school on Johnson Road will become York Middle School for seventh and eighth grades. Improvements, funded through the 2007 bond package, include new hallways that reduce the need to wander through classrooms.
Fifth- and sixth-grade students will attend York Intermediate School at the former junior high school campus on Devinney Road. The former middle school, Harold C. Johnson, is closed for renovations and will reopen in 2011 as an elementary school.
York’s elementary schools will now cover kindergarten through fourth grades.