With the 2019-2020 academic year starting Aug. 16, Gering High School’s construction project is starting to wrap up. Currently, workers are installing ceiling tiles, updating lighting, installing carpet and testing the air condition and heating units.

While the majority of the project has an anticipated completion date prior to the first day of school, Gering Public Schools Superintendent Bob Hastings said there will still be projects under construction. The auditorium and locker rooms will remain under construction with tentative completion dates prior to fall sports and the musical season.

“It should be tight, but we should have access to the locker rooms right before fall sports,” Hastings said.

Hastings added the Labor Day is when work in the auditorium should wrap up and once the stage work is finished, workers will replace the seats.

As the district prepares to welcome staff and students into the updated building, the flow of the building will change. The new entrance will be off the east side of the new commons area as the old cafeteria area is transformed into a culinary arts kitchen.

“The commons area will be ready for the start of school,” Hastings said. “Furniture for the commons is scheduled for late July once the floors are polished.”

The auxiliary gym is nearing completion and will give the district an opportunity to host tournaments and add additional seating for freshman and junior varsity contests.

“We’ve been gym space poor in our district, so this will be a major upgrade,” he said.

The new Freshman Academy space is also being wrapped up. Workers were busy installing ceiling tiles Wednesday and constructing a platform on the north end of the space for students and faculty to congregate for morning announcements. Freshman will complete their core courses in the new space, which features seven new classrooms and three renovated classrooms. The commons space in the middle of the classrooms will be decorated with soft seating, couches and work areas for students. The Freshman Academy will allow faculty to teach around 180 students, but Hastings said there is room for growth.

Throughout the building, students will see new half size lockers they will be able to utilize. The lockers will help students store their books and backpacks instead of running to their vehicles between classes.

“One of the pieces we’ve been missing is lockers for all students,” Hastings said. “There will be one for every kid and Freshman Academy students will have their lockers in that commons. That will be a nice upgrade for them.”

Along with the renovations, Hastings said improving school safety has been important.

“One of the important pieces of this was making sure we had a more secure building in the end,” Hastings said. “Anyone who wants to come into the building will come in through the front doors and then taken in through the office.”

Since the high school renovation of an over 50-year-old building brings with it a lot of change, Hastings said they have plans for building tours to help people adjust. High school reunions will also take place throughout the summer to allow alumni to see the building.

During this time of transition at the high school and Freshman Academy, Jennifer Sibal, community engagement director, said they have an announcement about their career pathways.

“Now that we’re starting to see everything come to fruition here in terms of structure, it’s time to bring life to the building,” she said. “So, we’re going to be announcing our career pathways at the high school starting at the end of this month and the beginning of August.”

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.