Photography by Dianne Carroll Burdick
Kent City — As a self-described “drama kid,” Kris Cardosa is fired up about the refurbished auditorium at Kent City High School this fall.
“I’m pretty excited to do a production there,” the senior said recently. “Hopefully they made the stage bigger.” When Assistant Principal Curt Gerbers answered in the affirmative, Kris exclaimed, “Yes!”
The upgraded theater and musical performance space is but one of several improvements students can get excited about this year, thanks to continuing work funded by a $22 million bond approved in 2019. By extending an existing 8.25-mill levy, district voters funded significant facility improvements without raising taxes.
Students and staff alike can feel the difference in the work that’s been done, including newly completed phases this fall at the high school, said Superintendent Bill Crane.
“There are opportunities that our kids have now that they didn’t have three years ago,” Crane said, crediting the community for its “amazing” support. “We just really want to make the structure of everything that we do a better place for learning.”
Work began in 2020 on a wide range of projects and has continued since then, including increased security in all buildings, resurfaced track and athletic fields, air conditioning in the elementary school, and improved and expanded parking lots.
‘Every person that uses one of these spaces two years ago would have said, ‘Here’s what I need to change.’ Today they would say, ‘Everything is what I need. If I want to do something I can do it, because it’s all here.’– Assistant Principal Curt Gerbers
This fall, students at the high school were welcomed by brighter and better learning facilities as well as the remodeled auditorium. The latter is basically all new, Gerbers said: new red-and-white acoustic paneling, 280 new seats, new sound and lighting systems, more accessible seating. And, of course, the newly expanded stage, due to be completed by month’s end, that has Kris Cardosa and other drama kids excited. Their first play, “Puffs,” scheduled for Nov. 17-19, and the February musical, “Chicago,” will have a far more elegant venue than the middle-school cafeteria used last year.
Science, Music, Art & More
Other new and improved spaces include:
- Two new science labs: large, airy spaces that used to occupy two and three classrooms, respectively. They include newly installed walls and ceiling, tables and chairs, counters and cupboards, and electrical and plumbing systems. A storage area was built from a former mini-classroom and a new filtration hood provides safety and ventilation for lab experiments.
- A refurbished band room, featuring new acoustic panels and ceiling and new storage lockers for instruments. The former risers were removed, providing more ample teaching space for director Jonathan Schnicke. The facility should be an asset for the two-time defending state champion Kent City Marching Band, which recently hosted a Michigan Competing Band Association competition.
- A renovated art room, a sleekly luminous space outfitted with new tables, floors, cabinets and ceiling for students in four art classes.
Taken as a whole, the building’s improvements have made spaces much more usable for teachers, said Gerbers, the assistant principal of the high school and middle school.
“Every person that uses one of these spaces two years ago would have said, ‘Here’s what I need to change,’” Gerbers said. “Today, they would say, ‘Everything is what I need. If I want to do something I can do it, because it’s all here.’”
As for the students, “I hope they feel an investment in their education,” he said. “I hope they feel that we’re doing it for them.”