The Watertown-Mayer school district is in the final phases of a year-long facility improvement project which includes the elementary school, middle school and high school, as well as the district office. It is being financed by a 25 million dollar bond referendum which was passed in November 2019, as well as an operating levy which provided an extra $425 per student in revenue.
The first phase of the remodel included the following areas: the kitchen and cafeteria shared by the middle school and high school, the high school media center and the high school special education suite. In the kitchen, a new walk-in cooler and freezer were installed for more accessible food storage, and wood ceiling and wall panels were added to make the space feel more warm and less institutionalized. In the dining area, the floor plan was set up to make the space more akin to a college cafeteria with the addition of booths and high-top tables.
As far as the media center, part of the space was turned into a commons area with new furniture for students to work on homework or hang out before or after school. Breakout rooms were also created for students to collaborate outside of the classroom. In addition, special education suites were built at all three schools to allow staff and resources to be easily shared.
Another new aspect of the high school building is a school store and coffee shop which will sell things like smoothies for students to grab before school. According to superintendent Darren Schuler, it is scheduled to open sometime at the beginning of 2022. In addition, new equipment was purchased for the Career and Technical Education (CTE), biology and robotics classrooms at the high school, which has increased student demand for these classes.
The middle school also got a facelift with all new windows, new ceilings and lights, new flooring, new cabinetry and repainted walls. “The middle school was really dark before and these new additions make the space more learner-friendly,” said Schuler. Furthermore, new clever touch boards and flexible use furniture were purchased for the classrooms to create a more interactive environment. “Staff like that the desks can easily be moved and put back,” remarked Schuler.
The most major change for the elementary school was the installation of acoustical ceiling tiles in the common pod areas to help reduce the amount of echoing. Previously, these areas had high ceilings with the metal roof exposed which caused them to be very noisy, according to Schuler. New flooring and flexible use furniture were also added to the elementary school.
In terms of athletic facility improvements, the football stadium and track were completely redesigned with a sophisticated light system and turf field, as well as a new scoreboard, press box, bleachers, fencing, archway, concession stand and ticket booth. On top of that, the gym received a new wood floor, with new game and practice lines, and updated baseline and sideline logos. New bleachers were also installed, with improved seating and ADA access. In addition, the JV and Varsity softball fields were redone.
Thanks to some favorable bids, the district was able to extend their dollars further than they had originally planned. The middle school and district office are currently being upgraded and over 50% of the district has been outfitted with new furniture. The district also took the opportunity to enhance its branding with additional signage and logo placement.
While lots of progress has been made on the project, there are still a few things to be done. Currently there is only one main entrance to the middle school/high school complex and the district is currently working with architects to add an additional entrance. Other items on the docket include finishing the punch list of remaining tasks, remodeling the high school swimming locker room and the middle school locker room, and building a greenhouse for the FFA and Science program.
“We’re so appreciative of our community for supporting us,” said Schuler. “We talk a lot about connections and opportunities as our tagline and their investment in our schools has allowed us to provide spaces to our students to allow them to be successful in the classroom and outside the classroom.”