Period of adjustment at MHS

On Tuesday, the bus loop on the Davis Avenue side of Marietta High School remained blocked and teachers coming in for meetings were instructed not to enter through the Colegate Drive side.

But when classes resume Thursday, all the parking and entrances should be open and available, even as work continues on a nearly $600,000 renovation designed to improve safety by keeping all the school’s students in one facility.

“When the kids get here and the buses start running, everything should be fine,” high school Principal Bill Lee said. “Those kids (that drive) will be able to park on Thursday morning, come in on the Colegate side and access the building.”

Based in part on input from a parent survey and sped up somewhat following the shooting deaths of 20 young students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., last December, the project began the day after school ended in late May. The goal is to allow the school to activate an electronic door-lock system by eliminating the need for most students to enter and exit the building during the course of the school day.

An enclosed walkway has linked the main high school building with the auditorium and gymnasium facility on the Davis Avenue side, while an addition on the Colegate end is providing about 5,800 square feet of additional classroom space. That will allow classes like vocational-agriculture and engineering to move into the main building, eliminating the need for students to walk up the hill to the administration building.

While the entrance will be open on the Colegate side Thursday, classes will continue in the administration building for the first semester, Lee said.

The security system will not be immediately operational, he said, but eventually it will be set so the doors are automatically locked for the majority of the day.

Incoming freshman Tyler Devol said he will have four classes in the administration building in his first semester at the high school. He looks forward to having all his future classes in the main building.

“It’ll help out in the winter … so you won’t have to worry about carrying a jacket around all day,” Devol said.

Incoming seniors Jamie Davis and Stephanie McPeek said they understand the reasons for the changes, but have concerns about how they’re being enacted.

“It kind of looks like a prison now,” McPeek said, referring to the walkway on the Davis side.

“I liked it when it was outdoorsy, when you could sit outside,” Davis added.

Lee said he still wants to give students the option of going outside during lunch when the weather is nice. He plans to add some seats in the grassy area on the Davis side and said staff members on lunch duty could monitor the comings and goings of students to that location.

“We don’t want to run it without giving them the opportunity to go out and have some fresh air,” he said.

The exterior entrance to the gym and auditorium, including steps and the honorary bricks in front of them, has been enclosed by the walkway. Lee said that when the work is completed the school will likely fill some of that space by expanding its trophy display and photos of all-state athletes.

The $596,300 project is being done by Grae-Con Construction of Marietta and various subcontractors.