HARRISON – A Jan. 12 quick tour of the renovation progress being made at the Hillside School building was provided for the Cleaver by Rick Foote, superintendent of Harrison Community Schools. From Foote’s first greeting at the front door on W. Main Street to the blocked off hallway just north of the still existing cafeteria and still functional kitchen, the tour was a sweeping view of what some natural lighting, painting and electrical upgrades can do to brighten a building.
New windows are a large part of the newly painted, cheery interior, as are the hallways which were
made more spacious by removal of lockers. As is being experienced by much of the nation, supply chain delays have plagued the renovation’s progress. In specific,
there are windows leaning against walls waiting for parts to complete their installation, as well as an
absence of new exterior doors.
And, as pandemic would have it, the wrecking ball work scheduled for the north wing of the 1957
building was delayed, with the expectation it could resume within a week or two. Foote said that if it
came down as quickly as the multi-story 1938 building, it would be a fairly quick demolition and haul-out. COVID isolation or quarantine had stalled work on the building’s basement. That inability to do mason work was also holding up window installation on the least side, where the 1938 building was attached prior being razed.
Foote affirmed that it was strange to have the old building gone. With the old building gone, the new administration offices were built along the south side of the building along a hallway parallel to the original east-west hallway.
Foote said the offices were definitely a step up in terms of square footage compared with the old offices. Unfortunately, those offices were still without doors and it was unknown when they would arrive.
An important element of the new offices area is the inclusion of ample storage for records, as well as an area for secure storage of vital records.
Work on the new gym floor also was in progress. That floor that had rotted in places, separated in places, and had what could be likened to lazy summer lake rolling ripples.
Another big upgrade is the new boilers to provide adequate, energy efficient hot water and heating for the building. Foote pointed out the classroom where the Alternative Ed students are meeting temporarily, having been previously housed in the north end of the building. He also pointed out two overflow classrooms which he hopes can house a CTE [Career Technical Education] class for the preschool program, as well as eight classrooms where CTE instruction could be housed.
“We’re hoping to,” he said. “Nothing’s been finalized.”
Also completed in the building plans are offices for preschool and Head Start teachers: four for each.
Anyone who has attended HCS Board of Education meetings in the old board room, or in the temporary HHS Auditorium, will appreciate the conversion of the old Hillside Media Center. What was originally the high school wood shop before being converted to the Media Center, will now be the official HCS School Board Meeting Room – complete with ample space for members and attendees.
When asked what renovation in the building seemed to have the biggest impact, Foote cited the upgrades to the electrical and heating systems, as well as new roofs.
“Hopefully, when this is all said and done over the next three years, with some of that ESSER money, improving some of the HVAC at the middle school yet, so they can have air-conditioning over there,” he said. “A couple years from now, they could possibly be able to looking at being able to go to school year-round.”
Foote’s frustration with the project delays was evident, but he is resolute that things will get finished and that when he leaves his position as HCS superintendent at the end of June, he will leave behind buildings that are welldone and will serve the students in the Harrison Community Schools District for many decades to come.
Asked what he has been hearing from staff about their impressions of the renovations, Foote noted the sentimental aspect among the former Hillside staff now incorporated into the Larson Elementary School.
“Primarily, though, people walking through here, they’re really enjoying what it looks like,” he said. “They’re settling in there [at Larson], and just like we told the high school staff: it’ll be two years before everything is balanced and working the way it should.”
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