A-W in midst of bond projects

Friday, August 12, 2022
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Akron-Westfield Technology Coordinator Dwain Wilmot stands in the room that was home to the A-W library. The room has been cleared out and will be renovated this fall. It will be known as the Innovation Room. It will include areas for small groups of students to work together as well as library books. Wilmot will have space in an adjoining room to work on technology and also use as a classroom.

AKRON — Students at Akron-Westfield Community School will see construction activity and changes when they return to class on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

Open house for all students starts at 5 p.m., Monday Aug. 22, with 6th grade parent orientation and freshman orientation at 6 p.m.

Superintendent Derek Briggs said Phase I of three phase bond projects approved by the board will start Aug. 15.

“There will be a bit of delay because we did put some projects back out for bids as we did not get competitive bids for six of our projects,” he said.

Groundbreaking for a new career technical education addition will be held at 6 p.m., Aug. 18.

“That will house the district’s woodworking area and our metals shop, adding about 6,000 square feet. Once that is completed the current career tech area will be turned into a weight room and storage space,” Briggs said.

“The high school’s library library space will be remodeled and turned into the Innovation Center. All books and equipment have already been moved out of the area.

“It’s amazing when you get the furniture out how big the room is. It will still be the library but we will call it the Innovation Center,” Briggs explained.

“There will be different pods where people can do some small group work and there will access to interactive TVs. There will still be library books in here too,” he added.

Technology Coordinator Dwain Wilmot occupies a room adjacent to the library space.

When the remodel is finished, Wilmot will occupy a room currently used for storage which will be turned into a small classroom and an area where he can repair some of the district’s smaller technology items.

“I’m excited about getting a bigger room that will also be a classroom for me. Otherwise I’ve been traveling to different locations,” said Wilmot, who teaches physical computing class and a computer coding class.

Also being remodeled will be what was once the ICN room and now a catch-all room.

“That room will be turned into the elementary art room and will be closer to the elementary classrooms,” Briggs noted.

Multi-Phase Project

He expects the Phase I construction, except the CTE building, to be completed in late December or in January.

Phase II will begin in early 2023, and will include new high school/middle school science rooms, and combining the high school and former elementary art rooms to make a larger space for high school students.

“The science area will absorb a small classroom and they will get new equipment so it can be turned into a really nice lab space,” Briggs said. “At the same time, our elementary locker rooms will get a facelift.”

Once that is done, Phase III of the project will be gutting and remodeling the high school and middle school locker rooms.

Also on the list will be a remodel of the visitor entrance by the elementary offices.

“It will be completely remodeled and designed with a focus on school safety and have a nice check-in point for visitors,” Briggs explained.

The year-long CTE building project will take a year to complete. Once that is completed and the classroom is transitioned, the former space will be renovated into a weight room.

There will also be upgrades and updates of the HVAC system throughout the building.

Focus on Technology

Technology has been a priority for the A-W school board, as they have invested a significant amount of money over the last 10 years to transition the district to a 1-to-1 school, according to Briggs.

“Because of the way the board has supported that, we have been able to update our equipment on a pretty regular basis so our students do have the opportunity to have the most current technology in their hands and our teachers do as well. With the tools that they have in the classroom and the tools the students have at their fingertips, we are absolutely wanting to make sure we support teachers in that area,” he continued.

The district has six country bus routes and one town route.

“We think we are currently short one driver, but our transportation director has his CDL, so he will drive,” Briggs said.

Athletics, Involvement is Key

Athletics is also a big part of the school year for any school.

The summer season saw a new softball coach, Victor Mena, as long-time softball coach Todd Colt retired after 20 years. He remains as the high school English teacher and the district’s athletic director.

While a successful season is always nice, Briggs said he sees involvement of students as important.

“We see it as just part of the whole picture of what we offer here and we absolutely like to see kids succeed. But the involvement for us is the key, and having good teachers who happen to also be coaching and provide opportunities for kids to try their hand in anything they have an interest in is our goal,” Briggs said. “I guess I look at the success of those programs as a good as far as a good number of students are involved in the experience that they have compared to the results.”

Mastering a New Role

On July 1, Briggs took on a new role as the district’s superintendent. His is a shared position with the Whiting Community School District, a role former superintendent Randy Collins also had.

The sharing finds Briggs spending 60 percent of his time at A-W and 40 percent at Whiting.

“Each district has their own strengths and challenges and I am just very blessed to be surrounded by very strong people that can help both districts move in a positive direction,” Briggs said.

Prepping for the New Year

He said the biggest key is getting all staff in place before school starts.

“Not all of that is ironed out in either district, and we’re about a week and a half from the start of school. We’re not alone, I think a lot of school districts are facing that,” he said. “At this stage of the game you have to be creative and just hope the state will work with you to make sure you get licensed people in the classroom.”

With Briggs moving to the superintendent position, Jeremy Mills has come on board as the new 7-12 principal.

Mills comes to A-W after being principal for two years at Siouxland Christian. He also has served at a variety of Christian schools for 13 years.

Other new staff members for the 2022-23 school year are: Max Anderson – 6th grade; Amber Brau – guidance; Jerod Bruget – head coach cross country; Doug Bundy – full-time sub; Hailey Wait – Spanish; Marcia Finzen, Maria Goodman, and Jersey Wendel – paraprofessional; Cassie Hansen – middle school resource; Mariah Schilmoeller – high school resource; Madison Hemmelrick – Title I reading; Megan Vander Lugt – elementary TLC; Jerry Zimmerman - custodian; and Tabi Harris – marketing coordinator.

Briggs said he is looking forward to the school year getting started.

“I’ve been here throughout the whole summer and when you’re getting the facilities into shape and you’re planning, you really don’t know how it will go until the students get here,” he said. “My favorite time of the year is the start of the school year and looking forward to having this kids back in here and the energy they bring. It will be exciting.”

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: