Ground has been broken on various district improvements, including a new athletic complex and secure building entrances, all funded by a bond issue approved by voters last year.
A ceremony was held May 30 as construction crews set to work at the high school, where a new athletic complex will include a football stadium and varsity baseball and softball fields.
At Ridgeview and Appleview elementaries, interior renovations that began this month will create secure entrances requiring visitors to pass through the central office before accessing the rest of the building. Playground equipment at both locations will also get upgrades, and new parking and roadways are meant to improve traffic flow, Superintendent Gordie Nickels said. Security was the most immediate concern, he added.
“You think that our community’s safe, but wherever there have been incidents, those communities’ people probably felt the same way,” Nickels said. “There’s a sense of relief on my part, knowing that our buildings are going to be more safe.”
The new athletic fields solve traffic-flow issues in addition to replacing aging facilities, he said. The old facilities, now designated as practice fields, are behind the middle school, which is also getting a rebuild, estimated to begin in December.
The new middle school will offer new spaces for project-based learning, and replace facilities built in the 1950s. The new building, still in the planning stage, was estimated to cost less than 50 percent of renovation.
Classroom technology will also be implemented across the district, following Google Chrome pilot projects at Appleview Elementary and the high school.
The athletic complex and secure entrances are scheduled to wrap up mid-August in time for the start of school on Sept. 5.
Once school and sports resume, Nickels said, the athletic facilities will also enable the district to host band competitions and other public activities.
“The things that we’re doing are going to help reestablish pride in our community,” he said. “It will bring people together. Especially athletic venues people can be very proud of and want to be a part of.”
The renovations and new facilities are the result of a $58.6 million bond passed in spring 2016 that will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $67 a year in additional taxes. It was the district’s first bond since 2004.
The vote of confidence in the district via the bond passage is not lost on the district.
“If I’ve learned anything about Sparta, they’re a supportive and caring community, but they want you to be smart about what you’re doing, too,” Nickels said.