Eagle Valley: High-school overhaul
GYPSUM – Some things are just worth the wait. Judging by student and staff reaction, the newly remodeled Eagle Valley High School is one of those things.
Students returned to their classrooms Monday after an extended summer scheduled specifically to accommodate the comprehensive school remodel. From the time they stepped through the front doors, students were surprised to find a vastly different space than the one they left last May.
“I’ve been having more upperclassmen asking where to go than freshman,” said beaming Principal Mark Strakbein. “People really will be shocked when they come through the doors for the first time.”
Unlike its upvalley rival, Battle Mountain High School, Eagle Valley didn’t get an entirely new building as part of Eagle County Schools’ most recent bond issue. But the school did get a $25 million remodel that kept it at the juncture of Valley Road and U.S. Highway 6 in Gypsum. The renovation includes some showcase upgrades including an expansive new entryway, gymnasium, student commons and technology wing.
“The school is much lighter and brighter so it feels better,” said Mary Ann Stavney, English teacher. “I like all the new wings that support our special programs.”
With more than 700 students, Eagle Valley has the largest enrollment of any building in Eagle County schools. Combining the needs of the growing student numbers with the desire to preserve the school’s history was the paramount goal with the remodel project. The first area of glaring need was the school’s cafeteria.
For years, the hallway that served as the entrance to the school gym and auditorium, doubled as the school’s cafeteria. Those days are over.
At the centerpiece of the remodel is a new student commons. The expansive room features huge windows and abundant natural light. Strakbein said the commons will be more than just a cafeteria. It will be a place for students to gather and study. It also will be a great community resource.
A food-court inspired design stages lunch service every day and a new concession stand will provide snacks during athletic contests. And, because the new student commons is located on the eastern side of the building, it will be more convenient for spectators.
Students were already reveling in the space by the first day of school, enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere as they grouped around smaller tables instead of the traditional, long fold-up cafeteria seating.
Immediately south of the new commons is a new gym. The facility seats between 1,000 and 1,200 people and include a more expansive court area. Students were introduced to the space during a pep rally Monday afternoon.
The former main gym will remain in service for junior varsity games, practices and other events and a little bit of its history is highlighted at the new gym. The iconic Hot Stuff devil, painted on the old gym wall, has been reproduced on the new gym floor.
The school’s existing locker rooms will be remodeled and the former auxiliary gym has already been converted into the school’s art wing. There are two new classrooms and a new ceramics room now housed in the space.
“The art wing is far and away better than before the construction. We can now do things the way they are supposed to be done,” said Jason Rittmiller, art teacher
When they reported to their senior government class, members of the Class of 2010 got a little taste of college life.
The renovation included a massive facelift at the school auditorium. The facility didn’t gain seats, but a new sound and lighting booth and stage improvements were completed. Another improvement expanded the auditorium’s uses.
New seating was installed and every other seat features a flip up desk top. The auditorium can now double as a lecture hall for classes such as American Government, which has 110 students enrolled. “It’s helping to prepare students for the large, lecture hall classes they will have in college,” said Strakbein.
Along with the auditorium improvements, band and music students have new quarters and the old band room is now a stage prep area.
Technology improvements are another big theme. The school’s wood shop was upgraded and an entirely new technology wing was built at the southwest corner of the building.
A new computer aided drafting room featuring 25 stations and two new computer labs will be housed in the addition. The broadcasting program got new space, complete with production areas and a studio.
Rounding out the building remodel will be a new main office for the school and a new parking area/bus drop-off on the south side of the building.
The new and improved Hot Stuff Stadium made its debut last month. The stadium has new grandstands seating, an artificial turf field, track surface and lighting.
As he looks back on the two-year process that it took to complete the school remodel, Strakbein said he’s very pleased with what was accomplished at the school. As with any large-scale construction process, he said that various improvements were cut from the list, but the large-scale items the school wanted were retained.
“Has there been choices about the way to prioritize what we wanted? Sure,” he said. “But this remodel has a lot of extras and kids are very exited about it and teachers are very excited about it.”