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Students give thumbs-up to cooler classrooms, roomier cafeteria

High school upgrades complete 2019 bond improvements

Thornapple Kellogg — As bond projects wrap up, Thornapple Kellogg High School teachers and students are thankful to have air conditioning in their building for the first time. 

The last building to receive upgrades, the high school will no longer have to postpone or cancel classes or the Homecoming dance because of high temperatures.

‘Energy levels are up, students are raising their hands and volunteering answers, instead of counting down the minutes until they could escape the heat.’

—  Teacher Caitlin Elsesser

“Now all school buildings in the district have air conditioning to provide a comfortable learning environment for students,” Superintendent Craig McCarthy said.

After the first week back at school, high school math teacher Caitlin Elsesser said having air conditioning in her classroom was a game changer. 

“My classroom would be 85 degrees by the end of the day and students would be sleepy and dazed,” Elsesser said. “For me, it was exhausting to teach in a hot classroom all day.” 

Elsesser said she noticed the most difference in having an air-conditioned classroom during her last two class periods — the hottest parts of the day.

“Energy levels are up, students are raising their hands and volunteering answers, instead of counting down the minutes until they could escape the heat,” she said. 

More Space, Less Clutter 

Students will also have a more spacious and comfortable cafeteria thanks to the voter-funded upgrades. In 2019, voters approved a $42.8 million 25-year school improvement bond for a new learning center, elementary classrooms, expanded cafeterias and improvements in infrastructure.

McCarthy said the completion of four years of bond projects set up the district for growth over the next 10 to 15 years.

“The cafeteria only held 350 kids before we added 3,000 square feet to the space,” he said. “Now we should be able to seat 600 kids with all the new seating options.” 

Before the expansion, senior Holly Carpenter said students ate lunch near their lockers, in the hallways or the library because there wasn’t enough space in the cafeteria. 

“Having a space where we can eat helps not clutter the hallways and having the new TVs will be fun to watch sports throughout the year,” Holly said. 

Her friend group can be found eating their lunches at their “spot,” one of the new high-top tables. Other varieties of new seating include additional round tables, booths and countertop seating along the windows. 

Junior Caleb Summerhays said having new seating options makes it easier to eat lunch with his friends and is better than sitting on the floor between the rows of lockers. 

McCarthy said there’s still work being finished at the high school, including continued renovations on the pool and the roof with a completion goal of January 2024. 

Read more from Thornapple Kellogg: 
Five districts win tax approvals, one weathers defeat
He returned to education because he missed impacting students

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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