Westerville South: New gym, classroom spaces to open soon

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Westerville South High School principal Mike Hinze stands in front of a new entrance that will welcome the community to a new gymnasium.

Westerville South High School students, staff and the community soon will be able to enjoy a new gymnasium, classrooms and project-based learning areas, thanks to the school’s renovation project. 

Scott Dorne, Westerville City Schools' executive director of facilities and operations, said the goal is to transition students and staff to the new spaces over the Thanksgiving or winter break. 

He said the nearly completed phase 1, costing about $17 million, includes the renovation of the auxiliary gymnasium into two floors of academic spaces, with 20 new classrooms. 

The entire project includes six phases and a total cost of about $38 million, he said.

Dorne said the renovation and addition project are being funded by a 2009 permanent-improvements levy through a certificates-of-participation program.

According to investopedia.com, a certificate of participation is a type of financing where an investor purchases a share of the lease revenues of a program rather than the bond being secured by those revenues. As opposed to bond participation, the certificates pay investors via lease revenues as opposed to bond interest.

“An addition was added to connect the new academic spaces to the existing academic wings to improve circulation in the building,” he said. “The 20 classrooms will replace an existing 19 classrooms that will be lost in phases 2 through 6, as those classrooms will be expanded to recommended sizes of about 900 square feet.”

In addition to the new academic spaces, he said, a wing was added that houses the new main gym.

“The existing main gym will become the auxiliary gym,” he said. “The position and design of the new gym will better support physical-education classes and both indoor and outdoor athletics.” 

Westerville South has a new gymnasium that will seat approximately 1,680 people. The Westerville name from the old floor recognizes the heritage that South once was known as Westerville High School, said Scott Dorne, executive director of facilities and operations.

He said the gym is a bit larger than the current gym, and the student section is differentiated with red instead of black.

“The gym was developed in a pragmatic way,” Dorne said. 

A divider comes down from the ceiling to create two separate classrooms, and a class also could be held behind the bleachers. 

The “Westerville” name on the gym floor recognizes the heritage that South was Westerville High School at one point, Dorne said.

He said the addition of the wing also allowed for the expansion of the space for the kitchen, including an additional cooler and freezer that will support the satellite kitchen. 

Dorne said South's kitchen provides food for seven elementary schools daily. 

Natural light, more colors

Mike Hinze, South’s principal, said he’s most excited about the new classrooms and learning spaces for the school’s approximately 1,600 students.  

“I think our students and community will be excited about this gym,” he said. “But most of our work gets done in classrooms.”

In the new upstairs wing of the building, Hinze said, the classrooms are mostly math. 

He said it also has project-based learning areas, where students will be able to work on projects and do research. 

“We have these interspersed around the classrooms, so under the guidance of a teacher, kids could come out here and rehearse a play if we’re doing "Romeo and Juliet," for example. What a great place to do that,” Hinze said.

When the district started preparing for the project, he said, South’s student council was consulted. 

“The resounding voice of the students was they wanted more natural light,” Hinze said. “So the students got what they asked for. We have (some) floor-to-ceiling windows. We pushed the ceilings up so in all the classrooms in this new construction, we have these really high ceilings. They like the exposed ductwork and beams.”

He said the teachers wanted lots of white boards, and that request also was met. 

Hinze said students and teachers wanted square desks.

“They can be moved around a lot easier,” he said. “The chairs are a little nicer, a little more comfortable than what we have now. What I like the most is what our students wanted – these big, huge windows.”

Hinze said the renovation also provides wider halls and more color to the high school. 

“In the old part of the building, every single hallway is kind of a tan color,” he said. “Our students and student council told us they wanted color schemes to each of the wings so they could know where they were in the building.”

The second floor of a renovated space at Westerville South High School features hanging pendant lights that are supposed to be represent a waterfall.

The blue wing upstairs, representing water, includes a sky light that will provide natural lighting in the second and first floors of the building.

“We have lots of white boards for the teachers, much larger classrooms, higher ceilings and built-in storage,” Hinze said. “We’re really excited about it. It’s a space that meets up to the standards of the people in the school. We’re really thrilled.”

Nature theme

Instead of making the entire school look the same, each wing was branded, said Jeff LeRose, facilities director.

“When focus groups were done with students, we knew we wanted to create a more relaxing environment for students,” he said. “What came through with the focus groups was more of a nature theme.”

The wing with mostly math classes upstairs features blue and represents water.

“The fixtures, for example, are reflective of a waterfall,” LeRose said. 

If you think about raindrops hitting the surface of water, he said, it creates a ripple effect.

That’s reflected with lights that are circular to represent the rings of water or ripples. 

Dorne said other areas are designated by specific colors, representing elements earth, fire and air.

Peace garden

In an outdoor open area surrounded by the school building, South is partnering with the Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club over the next several years for what is designed as a peace garden.

Superintendent John Kellogg, who’s a member of the Rotary, said the space would be built into a type of courtyard. 

“There will be brick pavers laid out here to create a space,” he said. “A gazebo-like area could be used as a small outdoor theater or a space for classes to meet, even a space for events like a school dance that we could use.”

Kellogg said a waterfall feature along a glass curtain wall is a picture that was taken by resident Fawaz Hamoui.

Greg Viebranz, executive director of communications and technology, said the waterfall picture was taken in Iceland. 

“It is called ‘Seljalandsfoss’ (pronounced Selya-lands-foas),” he said. “It drops 197 feet.”

Kellogg said the photo was enlarged and made into the window feature. 

“This enclosed space will become a nice area, a Westerville Rotary peace garden,” he said. “It’s part of a phased-in project over time, mostly dependent on Rotary and their funding of it. They will also provide the labor to put it together for us.”

Dorne said the community support from Sunrise Rotary is super-impactful. “We envision students working side by side with Rotarians,” he said. “That’s a powerful project.”

A splash of red tile adds to the new restrooms near the Westerville South High School gymnasium.

Future phases

LeRose said the next phases and timelines are as follows:

• Phase 2: renovation of the first-floor north academic wing and cafe to be mostly completed by August 2021

• Phase 3: renovation of the second-floor south academic wing to be mostly completed by December 2021.

• Phase 4: renovation of the first-floor south academic wing and media center to be substantially completed by August 2022. 

• Phase 5: renovation of the second-floor north academic wing to be substantially complete in December 2022.

• Phase 6: renovation of the office/theater/music/gym areas to be substantially completed by August 2023.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla