FRUITPORT — After some first-day jitters, staff and students are settling into a new routine at Fruitport High School.
Principal Lauren Chesney said there was a lot of buzz and excitement leading up to moving into the new building.
Since 2018, construction crews have worked to build a new two-story structure behind the 1950s-built school.
Last month, students had a chance to explore their new school. Junior Zechariah Richardson used that time to learn where his classes would be located to make the adjustment and the first week a little easier.
Overall, Richardson approves of the modern building.
“It’s a fresh and new start. I like it,” he said.
The new school was developed with safety in mind. The building’s curved design limits line of site, and the classrooms were designed to limit the ability to see into the entire room.
Student lockers will all be located in one space, and they will stand a few feet tall.
As everyone settles into the new space, furniture will soon be added to the hallways, which were designed to double as collaborative learning spaces. The corridors were built wider than average hallways, and they have spaces to allow groups to use technology and work together.
With the new spaces and flexible classroom seating, educators will be able to work with groups of students in different ways, Chesney said. Many students have asked if this is what college is like, she said.
During the winter break, maintenance and technology crews worked to get the building ready for the first day. Chesney said some teachers chose to unpack their rooms during winter break, while others have unpacked throughout the week.
While there have been a lot of changes and adjustments, math teacher Kim Musial said it’s been “amazing” getting settled into the new building and her room. In her 17th year as an educator, Musial said she didn’t know how to compare the older building with the new one because they’re vastly different.
As she thought about what the change means for students, Musial was brought to tears.
“It gives our kids so many opportunities to see what college is like and what the future could hold,” she said.
The majority of the high school classes have moved to the new building, and the school store is being set up. The engineering/drafting and art rooms opened for students to use in the 2018-19 school year.
The math and science classroom wing underwent renovations. Those classrooms were added to the high school in 1998.
Students at the high school and Edgewood Elementary School are also using the new bus loop located behind the high school. The change creates a barrier with parent and student traffic, and it eases roadway congestion and improves safety.
The high school construction is part of a $48 million project, and the bulk of a $52 million bond that Fruitport school district voters approved in 2016.
In the coming weeks, crews will demolish the 1950s portion of the high school to make way for the locker commons, offices, media center and parking lot. The main high school office will remain in its current space until the new office is built. Then, staff will move and the building will be demolished for parking.
Until the locker commons is finished, students will carry their backpacks. Once the commons area is finished, backpacks and cellphones will remain in lockers during the school day, Chesney said.
With construction continuing, temporary walls were installed to separate students from the construction crews and work still going on. Chesney noted that a lot of planning went into the efforts to ensure safety.
The new Performing Arts Center is slated for completion in August, and the remaining construction work is expected to be completed in the summer of 2021.
The first event planned for the Performing Arts Center is the 2020-21 all-district staff kickoff event. Chesney said it’s a community project, and they want all of Fruitport’s staff to be involved.
While there are many things happening within the district to impact students’ futures, Chesney said the building is one of the brightest spots.
“Fruitport is the place to be,” she said.