After providing support to help pass a 2017 bond issue directed at Stillwater Public Schools (SPS), Selser Schaefer Architects designed improvements and additions to several SPS schools, including the Middle School. Working with input from administrators, teachers, parents, and students to truly understand the vision, needs, and desires of the school community, a timeless and economical plan was created for the Middle School that adds much-needed space and upgrades the current facilities while remaining respectful of the existing exterior.
On February 25, 2020, the community gathered to celebrate the successful completion of the Middle School upgrades.
By Jordan Bishop, Stillwater News Press
Photos by Jordan Bishop
Carl Treat used to be a science teacher, so when he walks into the new Stillwater Middle School (SMS) laboratory, he has to take a minute to admire everything.
Treat, an assistant principal at SMS, spent time Tuesday night walking around the 2200 S. Sangre Road location pointing out all the new additions at the school’s open house to show off the finished project of a bond passed in 2017.
The bond called for extensive renovations of SMS, Stillwater Junior High, Sangre Ridge Elementary and a completely new Westwood Elementary, totaling $74 million.
The middle school, originally opened in the 1980s to replace the old middle school — now the Stillwater Community Center — houses the 6th and 7th Grade students in the district. The project for SMS was $7.9 million and focused on expanding the gymnasium, a two-story classroom addition, administration offices, a bus loop, a Fine Arts Department, and a new secure entryway.
Students were able to move into the new fine arts wing last fall, whereas the gym was opened in January with the new reception offices and classrooms about to be moved into.
Treat looked around the gym, pointing out where the wall used to be and how much the 4,000 square-foot expansion will help with using the gym space.
“We have got two full-size courts now and bleachers, we didn’t have bleachers beforehand. The kids had to sit on the floor,” Treat said.
While there aren’t games played there, Treat said it could be possible. Right now, the 7th Grade basketball and volleyball teams play at SJH on the northeast side of town.
Next, he showed the new conference rooms and reception alongside a new wing for administrative offices. While that was being built, the principals and administration had to use cubicles in a classroom while reception was in the concession stand area because it was more secure. Across from reception is a new counseling office where the old reception office was.
When security is complete, visitors will check-in at the reception area before going into the school, like most Stillwater Public School locations are set up now.
Another great installment was the bus loop, Treat said, as now instead of having a small U-turn area for one bus, nine buses can now line up in front of the school and kids can walk underneath a canopied walkway to load up.
The Fine Arts Department has a completely new wing including a vocal music room, an orchestra room, individual practice rooms, and a band room that is bigger than the junior high and high school’s.
“It is much better than what we had. It has a much higher ceiling and room for the kids to do what they need to do,” Treat said. “Acoustics built into it with proper storage and office space. It’s probably 60 percent larger. … The band room is larger than the band room at the high school and once the junior high is done with their construction, high school will have the smallest of the three.”
The new classroom wings across the building have top-of-the-line desks and chairs as well as automatic lights. The floor above it has the state-of-the-art laboratory and while they aren’t being used yet, Treat said once the appliances are installed, the extra space will be much needed for the nearly 900 students in the building.
Along with having all the extra room, the new classroom wing will double as a tornado shelter on the ground floor with roll down windows and roll down doors, a huge upgrade over the hallways the students used to have to go in case of emergency.
“We are very fortunate to be in Stillwater and have the community support that we have. They continue to support the bond issues like the one that was able to provide these facilities.”
– Bo Gamble, SMS Principal
SMS principal Bo Gamble said the safety upgrades were very important to him.
“From an administrator standpoint, something that gives you peace of mind is the areas that we added for refuge in the vocal music area and the ground floor of the new classroom wing,” Gamble said. “Knowing that I have a space to move kids into that is built for this specific purpose is nice to have.”
Gamble said there are a few things to be finished, like the security up front and getting the appliances in the new classrooms, but just seeing the construction done is a huge relief. He thinks all these upgrades at not only his building but also the other schools helped by the bond, will make parents in the district proud.
“I think it shows more about our community and the way our community supports education,” Gamble said. “We had that discussion a lot that we are very fortunate to be in Stillwater and have the community support that we have. They continue to support the bond issues like the one that was able to provide these facilities. That is huge. We have great community and district support.”
Nahholz was in charge of the construction and Selser Schaefer Architects did the design for the project. Nabholz project manager Caleb Rovenstine said it was tough to build while school was in session, but communication with the staff and administration helped a lot. Rovenstine said it was nice to see it all come to fruition.
“Being able to see the people come in here and enjoy and visually get to see what they had the vision of when they passed the bond all those years ago,” Rovenstine said. “Walking around and seeing the board member’s faces light up when they see it for the first time, it is like, ‘Wow, these are great spaces.’”