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New Facilities a Boon to Arts and Athletics

Bond Fund $9.5 Million in High School Improvements

Eva Bultman played clarinet to the accompaniment of Beckett Vigh on piano, in the spacious new band room of Rockford High School. Outside, more than 300 marching band members rehearsed for that Friday’s football game, but in here it was nice and quiet.

Sophomore Ari Hyink, doing pull-ups, calls the Fitness Center “super-nice. We get a lot done in here”

“I love it. It’s so pretty in here,” said Eva, a senior and member of the concert band, which begins playing in November. “It’s less cramped, and you can definitely hear the different (instrument) sections better.”

Beckett agreed, and also likes the new nearby Fitness Center, where he works out as a member of the water polo team. “I thought the old weight room was nice, but this one is beautiful,” said Beckett, also a senior.

For the considerable number of Rockford High students involved in music and athletics, this fall is a treat with the opening of $9.5 million worth of improved facilities:

  • The Fitness Center and an auxiliary gym above add more than 25,000 square feet for gym classes, sports training and competitions.
  • The addition of a 6,600-square-foot band room greatly expands rehearsal and storage space with high-end acoustics and recording capabilities.
  • The orchestra room, converted from the former band room, provides the first designated rehearsal space for the district’s new strings program, now reaching up to ninth and 10th grades.

All were made possible by voters’ approval of a $76.1 million bond issue in 2014, which also funded increased security measures, technology and building improvements. Overseen by general contractor Owen-Ames-Kimball, the high school projects employed 30 West Michigan subcontractors and an average of 175 workers, generating about $4 million for the local economy, said project manager Robert Gulliver.

Sophomore Ashton Halland, here lifting weight in PE class, says he loves the larger space of the Fitness Center weight room

A Sign of Community Support

The new facilities have given Rockford High students a shot of school spirit and pride, said Principal Dan Zang.

“It reminds our students, and it certainly reminds me, of the great support we have from our community,” Zang said. “They just support us in every (area), whether it be fine arts performance or athletic competition.”

Less visible improvements, such as a new training room for student athletes and a conference room and locker room for game officials, will enhance the athletic program. But during the school day, about half the students using the Fitness Center are not athletes but are improving their physical health to support their studies, said physical education instructor Brent Cummings.

“The space in that room is very exciting for our kids,” said Cummings, who has about 260 students. “The variety of things they can do in there is pretty special.”

Students are also excited about the new band room — which director Brian Phillips called “a bigger, better space” with excellent acoustics — and the orchestra room, created to host the strings program begun in 2014. Director ErinDeYoung warmly recalled greeting students on the first day of class.

“I said, ‘Welcome to your very first orchestra room,’” DeYoung said with a smile. “They burst into applause.”

Bond Improvements Mean Security for Students, Jobs for Workers

Converted from the former band room, the orchestra room provides ample space for the 40-student orchestra
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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers series and issues stories for all districts. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio


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