Later this month, the class of 1960 from Freeman High School will gather at the old campus on South Jackson Road in Rockford for a 50-year reunion.
After a slew of changes to the original building – dedicated in 1957 – someone should think about presenting the former students with a road map.
Freeman High School might be in the same location as it was five decades ago, but the new rendition is clearly part of the 21st century. From a state-of-the-art sound system to a new gymnasium that rivals any home floor in the Greater Spokane League, the upgraded facility has longtime district employees like Kay Kirkland enthused about the start of the 2010-11 school year.
|Freeman School Distict Superintendent Sergio Hernandez stands on the upper floor of the newly renovated Freeman High School, set to open on Sept. 7. The extensive project features an array of improvements including a new gym, floor to ceiling windows, additional classrooms and technology upgrades.
Photo by: Craig Howard
“New century, new building,” said Kirkland, a FHS graduate and front-office secretary who has been part of the staff at the high school for the past 28 years. “There are parts of it that bring back some history, but basically it’s like moving into a new school.”
Groundbreaking for the renovation took place last May, nearly a year after local voters passed a $19.5 million capital facilities bond to refurbish the high school and elementary school. Matching funds from the state added another $10.5 million to both projects.
Area residents rallied to donate additional money, supporting efforts to complete certain aspects of the upgrade, like a modern weight room. At one fundraiser, some $10,000 was raised.
Sergio Hernandez, superintendent of the Freeman School District, said the new high school could not have become a reality without the support of citizens. The district has already provided the community with access to the weight room and the track while Hernandez says it will be important to maintain the new facilities as part of remaining accountable to those who fund quality schools.
“It basically, ‘You voted for it – we’re going to take care of it,’” Hernandez said.
The project will mean an additional 28,000 square feet of space, including rooms for shop classes that were once removed from the central building. The new centralized campus will feature two floors and cover 82,000 square feet.
“It’s an amazing facility,” said FHS Principal Dave Smith. “I think it’s going to make a significant difference in the learning environment.”
Gone will be the days of teachers talking several pitches above their normal tone while competing against the shrill of clunky HVAC systems. Computer cords are no longer taped to floors while storage has improved by leaps and bounds. While the district has had success in passing technology levies, the new surroundings will mean a modern home for the infrastructure already in place.
For science teacher John Hays, the addition of a lab means adding to the curriculum.
“Now we have a science wing designed to suit the classes – we haven’t had that before,” Hays said.
The exterior of the building pays homage to the surrounding rural community with galvanized finishes that recall grain silos and rustic farms. Much of the landscaping around campus features indigenous plants. By default, some of the added technology even ties into the agricultural traditions of Rockford and the Palouse region. The school has added three new C.O.W.s – computers on wheels – that haul laptops from one area of campus to another.
As the start of school approaches on Sept. 7, Hernandez acknowledges that there is still work to be done. The bleachers in the main gym are yet to be installed and flooring in the old gym is still being finished.
“Like any other project, there will be last-minute details,” he said.
Smith said there are plans to have an assembly the first week of school to go over the numerous changes. Parents stopped by the school on Wednesday for an open house while a community event will take place sometime later this month or in early October.
“It really is special,” Hernandez said. “I know students here have real pride in their school. They’re going to take care of this facility.”