Work begins on MHS East Campus as projects at other schools wind down

By Bryan Richardson

The final summer of USD 383’s $97.5 million bond issue is here and so is the start of the final renovation project, the Manhattan High School East Campus.

While MHS West Campus has undergone extensive construction and renovation for about two years as the major piece of the bond issue, things have been relatively quiet at the 9th grade center, which has one section of the building nearly 100 years old.

Before last year’s renovation of the auditorium, the last time the building had received any work was in 1978, when the bridge and atrium were built.

Program manager Trisha Brooke-Fruendt of Universal Construction, the company guiding the district’s renovation process, said the project would help the morale of the faculty and staff at MHS East.

“Getting a facelift and new furniture hopefully will help them not feel like step-children and feel a part of the high school,” Brooke-Fruendt said.

MHS East Principal Charlie Sprott said the general public won’t be able to see the changes from the outside. “When you have a big, beautiful building like this, you don’t want to make a lot of drastic changes,” he said.

But the building will end up having more changes than previously anticipated. Brooke-Fruendt referred to the previous incarnation of the project as a “patchwork job” during a November school board meeting. In an effort to get the bond issue below $100 million, the board took out around $30 million worth of work.

The new design allowed for complete gym renovation as well as the majority of the building receiving plaster repairs, painting and new carpet. Also, around 90 to 95 percent of the furniture will be replaced.

Brooke-Fruendt said the reorganization of the project gives it a better impact. “The main reason to reprioritize is because the building will be waterproof now,” Brooke-Fruendt said.

Decades of water leaks showed the most visible effects on the first floor, especially near the courtyard.

“When you have water that’s in here, it causes problems, period,” Sprott said.

The water-damaged areas of the wall have repeatedly been plastered and painted over. The plaster is easily broken apart, and rust has formed on the poles that hold up a portion of the ceiling.

Also, both the cafeteria and gymnasium will receive air conditioning, which Sprott said will help during the August heat when school returns.

“At the beginning of the school and the end of school, it can be unbearable,” he said.

The new cafeteria furniture will fit the student population better, Sprott said. The current tables are 25 years old, dating to when MHS East was a junior high. It will look more like the high school’s cafeteria furniture rather than the elementary schools.

“Ninth graders are 14, 15 years old, and they’re bigger than 12-year-olds,” he said.

The school will be off limits all summer as work is being done, causing lots of effects. This will affect the district’s TV station, Channel 20, which will be off until the beginning of August. Driver’s education has been moved from the school to Theodore Roosevelt Elementary.

Sprott said the teachers are all very excited about the renovations.

“Feeling like attention is being given has created a new spark in them,” Brooke-Fruendt said.

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