By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton supervisors and citizens got their first look at five possible layouts for the county’s upgraded middle and high school Tuesday night in a presentation by architectural firm Waller, Todd & Sadler.
The 35.5-acre Northampton High School campus on Courthouse Road in Eastville will be transformed by demolishing the school buildings constructed in 1954, renovating the 1978 additions, and adding new construction.
The final product will increase the school’s interior from about 110,000 to 145,000 square feet and will accommodate 1,000 students – 450 in the middle school, which will include students in grades 6 to 8, and 550 in the high school.
That area does not include more than 21,000 square feet of space in the Career and Technical Education building that will also be renovated.
A budget of $35.7 million is proposed, including $28.3 million for construction. The timeline for completion is 2.5 years, including two years for construction.
Possible upgrades to the outdoor campus include a parking lot close to the main entrances, a bus loop accommodating 12 to 15 buses and separating bus and car traffic, new curb cuts, truck access for kitchen deliveries, and access to athletic fields.
The current athletic field house and bleachers may be renovated or replaced.
The five layouts presented by Waller, Todd & Sadler include all the following upgrades, but in different configurations:
• At least two separate entrances, one for parents, visitors, and student drop-offs, and another for bus riders and special event guests. In some scenarios, entrances for middle school and high school students are also separate.
Northampton High School currently has one main entrance at the front of the building for all students and visitors.
- A wing for a new auditorium, stage, and music room. The current auditorium, built in 1954, will be torn down.
- A wing for a new kitchen, middle school cafeteria, and high school cafeteria. The current kitchen and cafeteria are also part of the 1954 building that will be demolished.
- Separate wings for the middle school and high school, where core classes will be taught. A third wing or group of classrooms for electives will be shared.
- A separate gym and locker rooms will be built for the middle school. The high school will retain the current gym, which will be renovated.
In each scenario, the middle and high school will share a library/media center.
Each plan has advantages and disadvantages, leaving county and school officials to carefully consider their options.
For example, Option A and B place a new middle school wing out front, enhancing the building’s overall curb appeal and giving the middle school its own space, but the distance from middle school classrooms to some elective classrooms could prove inconvenient.
Options C, D, and E do not propose major changes to the building’s facade but group the middle and high school wings, elective classrooms, library, and cafeterias on one side of the building. The areas most likely to be accessed by the public, such as the gyms and auditorium, are grouped on the opposite side of the building, by the main parking lot.
Superintendent Eddie Lawrence said Option A, with the new middle school out front, was his favorite choice, and it would be an attractive option to the public.
School board members agreed. Chair Maxine Rasmussen said, “One thing, though, that we’ve heard from parents … is they just wanted a new middle school, and if we put them in that back hallway – even though we give them two separate entrances – they are not going to consider that what they wanted.”
The final choice may not exactly match any layout presented by the architects Tuesday night, but it may combine elements from multiple layouts, according to what county and school officials believe will work best for Northampton students, employees, and the community.
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