Middle-schoolers in the AHST Community School District will be brought in from the cold after an expansion project adds classrooms to its secondary building.
The school district – which serves Avoca, Hancock, Shelby and Tennant, as well as secondary students from Walnut – also plans to use money from a recently expanded levy to pay for further facility improvements.
Superintendent Jesse Ulrich said up to $5 million will be available from bonds against the district’s state penny, the one-cent portion of sales tax returned to Iowa school districts through 2029 to support infrastructure.
“Basically, what we will be doing is we are going to be expanding our secondary building to create a middle school addition,” he said.
Five new general education classrooms will be available for AHSTW students, along with two science classrooms for high school students. Ulrich said a new set of locker rooms and a weight room will also be added.
“We’ve always had a need for a permanent home for our wrestling program and a new weight room,” he said.
Funds from the physical plant and equipment levy approved by voters in November will go toward other facility improvement projects, such as renovating the current locker room, he said.
“We still have a lot of renovating that we need to do for the secondary building,” he said. “It’s just another example where AHST is trying to meet the needs of our kids.”
Facilities in the district have become neglected, Ulrich said.
Middle school students have attended classes in portable classrooms – essentially trailers located on school grounds but not connected to the building.
Having a separate area for those transitional grades, instead of mixing them with high school students, is important for student learning.
“We know that for adolescents in the middle school years, it isn’t the best for them to be mixed in with the high-schoolers,” Ulrich said.
Portables on the west side of the school have been used for more than a decade, he said. They create safety concerns and also disrupt the flow of students.
“We need to have classrooms connected,” Ulrich said. “I think our kids deserve better than mobile classrooms.”
The space crunch has been a concern since before Walnut students began to share the secondary facility through a grade-sharing program. The districts now are in the process of discussing a consolidation.
Ulrich said the school boards hope to announce a name of a proposed reorganized district for a ballot petition in the coming weeks.