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‘A positive in a time that’s somewhat negative’

High school building adds much needed space, state-of the art offerings

Long awaited and eagerly planned, the new Wyoming High School building — a spacious facility with lots of windows, collaboration spaces and project rooms — is open to students.

Inside, seniors Tara Black and Madison Dewey sat on the brand new learning stairs, a fun and functional feature where students can sit, study, learn or just chill. 

“This is my favorite part,” said Tara, a Wyoming Middle College student whose dual-enrollment GRCC classes leave room in her schedule for quiet study. “Especially when we have Middle College, we can do our work and not worry about being confined to a classroom.”

The building is the central piece of $40 million in renovation and upgrades under way at the high school campus, which also includes extensive renovations to the existing building at 1350 Prairie Parkway SW. The project is funded by the $79.5 million school improvement bond which passed in 2017 to fund districtwide improvements on all buildings over several years. Last fall, the high school’s new athletic complex was completed. Renovations on Oriole Park and Parkview elementary schools are planned next spring and summer.

Tenth- through 12th-graders settled in for the first week of in-person classes on Sept. 8. Students said they are thrilled to start a strange year on a positive note, learning in spaces designed to best fit their needs. There’s flexible furniture, new technology, breakout rooms and space for group projects. The 30-classroom building connects to the original high school via a hallway. 

“I’m honestly grateful,” said senior Andy Vo, as he worked on English homework on a table outside of class. “This is something we’ve been waiting for for a long time. Now it’s here, and it’s great.”

Principal Josh Baumbach said he’s excited for students and staff to have state-of-the-art amenities.

“I love the collaborative spaces. What a great opportunity for students to be able to learn together. I love the openness of the whole thing,” he said. “I am proud that Wyoming provided the opportunity for the students at Wyoming High School.”

Space Allows for Safety, Social Distancing

Baumbach also sees what the facility means to students right now, as they start 2020-2021 following a semester thwarted by the coronavirus. 

“When you are coming back to school during a pandemic, this certainly casts a different feeling,” he said. “It’s a positive in a time that’s somewhat negative. Having students back and really seeing them enjoy the space is awesome.”

Starting the year with 62 percent of the school’s approximately 900 students in person, and the remaining opting for Wyoming’s virtual program, also allows them to easily meet safety measures and social distancing guidelines under Michigan Return to School Roadmap.

“I really like that it’s spacious. You’re not really afraid of the virus because you have space to yourself,” said Michelle Trieu, a senior, as she sat in a common-space area working on her Chromebook.

“The new furniture is very helpful for students,” added senior Aracely Pablo. “It’s very spaced out. I feel like it helps students work independently and comfortably.” 

Renovations to update the original high school continue, with plans for a new cafeteria, kitchen upgrades, and existing corridor, classroom and science lab renovations. Eventually, ninth-graders, now at Wyoming Junior High, will join the 10th- through 12th-graders. 

Math teacher Dan Rusticus, a 28-year Wyoming Public Schools teacher, said he loves having natural light, new gadgets to use for teaching and, of course, added room.

“The new space is fantastic,” he said. “It has technological upgrades that are awesome, The space in the hallways are much more open. The kids don’t feel like they are jam packed anymore. The kids feel like they have space, and that’s awesome.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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