In February of 2017, voters in the Roland-Story school district voted overwhelmingly (76 percent) in favor of a $9 million bond issue to make improvements to all three school buildings. And now the work involved is wrapping up, with major construction complete just in time for the first day of school, which is Aug. 27.


The construction at the elementary school will be on display for the public as the district hosts an open house there on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 9 to 11 a.m. Everyone is encouraged to walk through the new addition and remodeled areas during the construction open house.


“It’s going to make an awesome difference for everyone here at the elementary school,” Principal Kate Hartzler said of the construction. “The project has sharpened the look of the building, and I think that will result in higher morale for students and staff alike.”


That construction at the elementary school includes an addition as well as renovated areas. At a cost of about $4 million, construction added classroom spaces, with the goals of reducing congestion and allowing for growth. The library, special education classrooms, main office, principal’s office, nurse’s office and teachers’ workroom have been remodeled.


The main entrance has been relocated farther north on the front of the elementary building and has been redesigned to provide for secure access to the building. The main entrance now features two sets of doors. The inner set of doors will be locked at the beginning of the school day, which will divert visitors through the main office to check in prior to entering the main building. Visitors will not need to use a buzzer; a door to the right after entering the first set of main doors provides an open entrance to the office. The main office is also equipped with the ability to lock the doors completely if a threat approaches.


New doors, windows and lights have been installed throughout the building to improve energy efficiency, safety and security. Exterior lighting has also been replaced and added for safety and convenience.


“Our new lights are more energy efficient and will create a savings for the school district,” Hartzler said, “but they will also positively impact student learning because they will provide a brighter environment for the classrooms.”


The drop-off and pick-up areas have been redesigned, with parents’ drop-off and bus drop-off basically exchanging places compared to past years.


“The change in drop-off locations and traffic flow will make it safer for our kids and will be a big, nice change,” Hartzler said.


Superintendent Matt Patton thanked the City Council for working with the school district to make Hillcrest Avenue one-way in front of the school. “The safety that one-way traffic flow will create for our students is more important than any inconvenience it will create,” he said.


Aside from the addition and renovation at the elementary school, the $9 million bond funded three other major projects:


At a cost of about $3.7 million, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning has been improved at all three buildings. Outdated equipment has been replaced and maintenance will be simplified as a result.


Air conditioning has been added to the high school gym and weight room spaces. The elementary school has been converted to geothermal heating and cooling, the first facility in the district to use this form of green energy.


At a cost of about $800,000, the high school science classrooms have been renovated and updated to provide better learning spaces. The parking lot at the high school has also been resurfaced and the roof on the south gym replaced.


At a cost of about $500,000, security cameras have been added to all three buildings. Access controls, such as electronic door controls and monitoring, have also been added to all three facilities. Security cameras have been added to all route buses.


A few minor details will be completed after the start of the school year, but Patton said all major work will be done by the first day as scheduled.


“We really want to thank the public for supporting and passing the 2017 bond issue,” Patton said. “The students and staff at all three of our buildings are going to benefit greatly from the improvements we’ve been able to make.”