There are lots of new beginnings at Shawnee Middle School this year — and things are going to look considerably different to middle schoolers who have been away from the campus all summer.

There are lots of new beginnings at Shawnee Middle School this year — and things are going to look considerably different to middle schoolers who have been away from the campus all summer.

As SMS Avedis Park is nearing completion, signage is expected to be done next week. Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. April Grace said Avedis is planning a Kickoff event in conjunction with the middle school's open house, if everything is completed by that time frame.

The site now boasts brand new tennis courts just south of the school, as well as walking trails and an amphitheater to the west.

The $1.5 million Avedis grant helped the middle school with the many-faceted project — furnishing the school system and community with a nature learning center, walking trails, multi-purpose/tennis courts and sidewalks.

Michelle Briggs, Avedis Foundation President and CEO, said the vision of Avedis is to improve the health, wellness and quality of life for the people of Pottawatomie County.

“What better way to do it than to build multi-purpose courts, trails –– that are open not only to the public, but also to our children, and we feel one of our best strategic investments is education at any level,” she said.

“If we can plant some seeds early in life for healthy bodies and healthy minds, then we are all for it,” she said.

The City of Shawnee provided, at no charge, engineering, bidding, contracting, and construction management for the sidewalk portion of the project, which extended the public sidewalk from the school south to MacArthur Street — creating an uninterrupted sidewalk along Union Street for 2.25 miles.

Also in the works, many of the $32 million bond projects voted in by residents in 2016 have been underway throughout the district as children celebrated their summer break. Crews have been pushing to finish much of the work before classes start Thursday.

The security vestibule is in some of the latter stages.

“We are not sure if it will be ready by Thursday, but should be ready in early September,” Grace said.

She said SMS also will begin the school year with a new assistant principal — Kim Paxson.

And, as the district welcomes 38 new teachers for the 2017-2018 school year, eight of them will begin at the middle school.

The district has also done some shifting around of its class schedule. Middle-schoolers will begin classes at 8:10 a.m. and end their day at 3:20 p.m.

Coming up

• Middle School sixth-grade orientation is from 7:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

• Middle School seventh-grade students must have documentation of Tdap booster immunization before they may pick up their schedule from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Wednesday.

Visit the SPS website, at shawnee.k12.ok.us, for updated information.