Students returning to the James E. Bazzell Middle School on Thursday, August 10, will find a school in the final stages of an $8 million renovation.
“We are not as far along with renovation as I had hoped but we will be starting August 10,” noted Bazzell Middle School principal Melissa Towery. “We will have to make a few adjustments but it’s going to be nice when everything is done.”
Work on the project began in the summer of 2016 and progressed through the 2016-17 school year. The work intensified following the close of the school on May 19. Now, with three weeks to go before the new school year begins, approximately 75 percent of the project has been finished.
“Most of the classrooms will be ready to go and the cafeteria will be ready,” Towery explained. “Still, the offices will be in a different place, the library will not be ready, the band room will not be done, and the front entrance probably will not be ready. It’s just going to take some re-routing of students.”
Towery notes that plans are being made to accommodate student drop-off and pick-up traffic in front of the school---students will be using an alternative entrance until work is completed on the main entrance. Students arriving by bus will be able to enter in the rear of the building as in the past but through a newly designed entrance.
Towery is quick to note that her returning eighth grade students grew accustomed to the construction during last school year. Crews worked in stages on classrooms on the second and first floors which forced many classrooms to meet in different locations throughout the year.
“The students have done great,” Towery added. “We were renovating about six classrooms at a time. So about every six weeks we had to move folks. If we had to close off a hallway or stairway, the students and teachers were great in re-routing.”
One of the biggest disruptions that will occur regards the school’s traditional Open House nights. Typically, incoming seventh graders and parents are welcomed on a Tuesday night the week prior to school. Eighth graders have their night the following Thursday. This year, plans are calling for the Open House to be a joint evening with both seventh and eighth graders scheduled for Tuesday, August 8. The Open House will be held at the high school athletic complex from 5:30 until 7:30.
Aside from renovation, students at the middle school will see few additional changes.
“We do have a new state accountability system coming out and we are hopeful that we will not see a whole lot of changes,” Towery noted. “Kentucky will see a little adjustment. Hopefully, we will not have to change our curriculum or our pacing guides a great deal.”
Towery adds that the school’s instructional coach---Sherry Long---will continue to develop her role, helping teachers find additional ways to connect with their students.
“Mrs. Long did a fabulous job last year,” Towery said. “She has been at some workshops this summer and will be tweaking what we have been working on the last several years---incorporating literacy standards into lessons and getting classrooms more student-centered.”
Towery adds that her math and science teachers have been participating in a grant through Western Kentucky University that has helped the educators learn about creating tasks for students that are “real-life” and “student-centered.” In addition, “pilot” teachers are continuing to focus on literacy strategies.
“We are a lot of things in the works.” Towery added.
New to the school this year will be the launch of a soccer program. Towery is excited about the program as well as the potential for the establishment of an archery program.
“I’m excited that we have the soccer program going,” Towery said. “Our new coach is Emily Williams and she is really passionate about it. I think it will be a great thing and I think we will touch another group of students. Most of our games will be away but we will have a home game. Also, our site-based council has talked with parents. We are looking at the logistics of a program and hopefully we can get archery up-and-going.”
The school will have one new teacher. Ann- Courtney Feenick will be a teaching seventh grade math.