After battling for years to get political support and funding for a renovation project they have claimed has been long overdue, parents learned Thursday night how messy the work is going to be.
Cobb school officials and architects detailed some of the logistics of the $20.3 million project, which begins in earnest this summer, and made repeated points about how dramatically daily school life will be disrupted for the next two years.
Portable classrooms, extremely limited student parking, the lack of an auxiliary gym and other inconveniences will mark the reconstruction, which is slated to be completed by January 2014.
"It will test everyone's patience," said Jerry Fountain, the lead architect for the Wheeler project, "but there isn't any other way."
But after concerted efforts to lobby for a renovation, and finally getting it in August after months of uncertainty, Wheeler parents were still delighted—and just a little bit relieved.
Earlier this week word circulated on a parents' renovation Facebook page that Thursday's meeting would reveal "significant changes" because of "budget issues." Before the formal presentation began, Doug Shepard, Cobb schools' SPLOST chief, drew applause from parents when he said the Wheeler project would be funded to the full $20.3 million approved by the school board.
"Our commitment is to deliver to you what we told you" last fall, Shepard said. "We feel good that we will have the ability to do everything we've shown you here."
Parents looking over the blueprints and reviewing a slide presentation were impressed. Among their many complaints have been that the older buildings are moldy and have asbestos problems.
"I think this will help restore a lot of pride to the area," said Susanne Muckerman, whose daughter is a Wheeler senior and who has a fifth-grade son at . "It's hard for people to have pride in something when it's decrepit and falling to the ground."
But before the 46-year-old school's facelift is completed, here's what Wheeler students, teachers and parents will have to deal with for the next two school years:
- Most of the main front parking lot will be blocked off for portable classrooms, with teachers parking across Holt Road at .
- Only 60 student parking spots will be made available. "Student parking for the next two years is basically going to be nonexistent," Fountain said.
- The perimeter road around the campus will become a one-way thoroughfare, with entry behind the Wheeler annex and exit behind the auditorium.
- The media center will be relocated temporarily to the current auxiliary gym during the first phase of construction.
- Lockers displaced by the construction will be moved "into any cubbyhole we can find," Fountain said.
- The after-school pickup area will be relocated to the back student parking lot behind the football stadium.
Fountain said demolition of the main classroom building will begin in August, followed by the administrative building, which also houses the auxiliary gym and cafeteria.
Also to be torn down is the annex located near the primary gym, making room for the construction of a new auxiliary gym.
"We're going to have an amazing building, but the next couple of years are going to be trying times," Wheeler Principal David Chiprany said.
"But it will be worth it."