By ROSIE GITHINJI
MT. VERNON —
Public input is going to be an integral part of the design for the new Mt. Vernon Township High School, said Superintendent Mike Smith. The first day of two public viewings gave the community the chance to take a look at the architectural designs of the new school.
Smith said the original high school dates back to 1905. There have been some additions made throughout the years, but it is time to update both the facilities and the curriculum, he said.
“We are going to try and accomplish four of these in two days and then see where we are at,” Smith said. “It’s been almost a two and a half year project, so far. Today is the day for all of you to do most of the talking. We want to do most of the listening.”
The new high school is the final decision of seven options looked at when the board began investigating the need to update the facilities, Smith said. He added school officials wanted to wait for confirmation of state dollars to pay for the project, which took about six months, before beginning the project.
“We think it’s been time well spent,” he said, explaining the former timeline would have put the move in date to the new campus mid-year.
Smith said the extra time is being used to gather input from the community, research the most effective design for school and other details to make the new high school as effective as possible.
The results of the input will be published as soon as possible, Smith said. Everything in the design phase needs to be wrapped up by the first of the year, so the 2015 deadline can be met.
“Every comment is valuable and it will be incorporated if it can,” he added. “So far, we are on schedule.”
High school principal Wes Olson said school officials want to engage the community in the process early on and the main focus of the public forums is to get the input into the design so far.
“It’s important to get their wants and their needs,” Olson said of the input. “We want to try to serve as many needs as possible.”
Olson said over 400 students, or about a third of the student body, have given their opinions on the high school designs.
“We have had a great response from the students,” he said.
The next public forums will be held Nov. 5. There will be afternoon sessions from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and evenings sessions from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. General sessions will provide a concept and design overview and breakout sessions will follow the general sessions.