As Shawnee students are settling into the new school year this week, many changes are noticeable in the district's buildings. Completion of several projects have been in high gear while classes were out for the summer.

As Shawnee students are settling into the new school year this week, many changes are noticeable in the district's buildings. Completion of several projects have been in high gear while classes were out for the summer.

The funding for those projects comes from a $32 million bond initiative passed in 2016 that was primarily for safety and security projects like safe rooms, secured vestibules and parking lots, as well as the addition of a new elementary school, among others.

Superintendent Dr. April Grace shared an update this week on where many of those projects stand at this point.

“I feel like all I've done since I've been here is work on construction projects,” she joked.

Grace said the Shawnee High School parking lot is finished, as well as the new special education classrooms there.

“Secure entrances at Shawnee Middle School is finished; Horace Mann Elementary's safe room and security vestibule is done,” she said. “Sequoyah Elementary's security entrance is close to being finished as are two new classrooms.

“I don't know if you deal with construction much, but for everything you do, something else gets messed up sometimes with contractors,” she said. “So we're usually working on fixing something else.”

There has been a lot going on in two years, Grace said.

A security vestibule, Grace said, ensures now that people have to be funneled through the office.

“They can't just have access into the building,” she said. “People have to scan their drivers license so we can make sure they aren't a sex offender or anything like that (it does a quick background check),” she said.

She said the district is just trying to provide that assurance to parents and keep students safe while they are at the school site.

“All the portable (buildings) are gone at Horace Mann,” Grace said. “It's a very compact site over there.”

The new area is built, she said, though crews are working on a humidity issue in one of the rooms with the air-conditioning system.

“It's always something, even when you think you're done,” she said.

Other projects include a new security vestibule and parking lot at Will Rogers Elementary, where work has been ongoing all summer. The new parking area should help traffic flow tremendously, she said.

Grace said the parking lot was supposed to be finished this week, but rain delayed progress.

“They were about to start laying the asphalt and we started getting rain,” she said.

At Jefferson, Grace said the security vestibule, a safe room area and a parking area also is still finishing up.

“Construction is still going on; there will be a little displacement until after Labor Day,” Grace said.

The high school's Stucker facility is currently under renovation, she said.

“It's going to be a fabulous facility when it gets finished,” she said. “It will have a safe room that will house the student body, which also will be used as a wrestling practice area.”

New science classrooms should be ready for classes.

“The SHS counselor area is done except for some pieces where the floor has to reach a certain humidity and dry out to a certain level before they can lay certain flooring,” she said. “It's ready; they'll move in and they'll have to let the floor do what it needs to do.” They'll move back out and lay the floor and then it will be functional, she said, that will likely be done around the holidays.

Crews are working on ADA seating at Jim Thorpe Stadium.

“That probably won't be ready for Aug. 24 (first home game), but it should be ready for the next home game,” she said.

Upcoming projects

● Security vestibules for SHS should begin in the fall or spring semester.

● Initial steps for the purchase of land for a new elementary site are already in progress and construction is anticipated to begin in 2020.

● Beginning in 2019, construction projects will include SHS band and music rooms; enhancements to the SHS library media center/learning commons; enhancements to the SHS cafeteria and dining areas; SHS baseball field ticket booth, concession area, restrooms and ADA enhancements; SHS softball dugout enhancements and SHS tennis facility upgrade.

Watch for updates.