By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT — A project that has likely been decades in the making is ready to be shown off to the community this Saturday when the Westfall Local Schools hosts an open house from noon until 4 p.m. to unveil its new addition that connects the high school and middle school.
“This is something the community has been talking about for at least 15 years, building a connector to link the high school and middle school. It even goes back to when the middle school was built, with the doors perfectly lined up to the main high school hallway,” Westfall superintendent Jeff Sheets said. “It’s going to be a great day to invite the community in on Saturday, so they can see what has been talked about for years turned into reality.”
The connector that links the high school and middle school is approximately 62,000 square feet, with 32,000 of those square feet dedicated to physically mold the boys and girls who attend Westfall.
A new middle school gymnasium that seats 500 people is included in the addition, along with a secondary court that can be used for basketball, volleyball and other activities. The second floor of the gymnasium has a three-lane walking track that goes around the perimeter of the building, similar to the fieldhouse that Teays Valley opened earlier this school year.
The athletic center also has four locker rooms, training room, storage, weight room and an aerobic fitness room.
“Westfall is a fairly rural district that covers 200 square miles, so the school is a center of our community and we wanted to keep that in mind when we designed the academic and athletic wings of the connector,” Sheets said. “With three basketball courts in the building, it will be nice that our kids can have practice right after school and their parents don’t have to bring them back later in the evening. There is also netting that can be lowered from the ceiling to section off a portion of the basketball court, so our baseball and softball teams can hit inside during inclement weather and practice.”
“Our community biddy teams can use our facilities and then we plan on having open community hours where people can come in and use the weight room, the walking track, the aerobic fitness room and play on the basketball courts.”
The project passed by district voters in November 2020 also included renovating the existing high school and middle school. The famous Dome was given a complete makeover with a new basketball court, lighting, banners, scoreboard and a fresh coat of paint that fans have been able to enjoy over the last two school years.
The district has also been able to reimagine existing space with the new connecter, including turning the old middle school gymnasium into a gymnasium dedicated to the wrestling program.
“Our wrestling program is one of our most successful programs with eight-straight Scioto Valley Conference championships and placing wrestlers in the state tournament, but the practice space they had was not very good to be candid,” Sheets said. “Now, they have the old middle school gym where they can lay out the mats and keep them on the floor and also hold duals and tournaments there if they want to.”
The academic portion of the new connector has four science labs — two for the high school and two for the middle school — new cafeteria and dining areas, a community center and media center.
“It’s great to have four new science labs with the latest state of the art equipment for our students to utilize, along with a new cafeteria, dining space that is divided between high school and middle school, media center and community room we can use for a variety of school and community activities,” Sheets said. “It was a priority, again, to have space in the addition that was not only for school use but also for use by our community.
“Moving the science labs to the connector and the cafeteria has also allowed us to use existing space in the high school and middle school for different purposes.”
The district is expecting to complete renovations to the high school and middle school sometime early this summer, according to Sheets. Those enhancements include air conditioning, new windows, doors, windows, lighting and ceilings.
“Our high school and middle school buildings were kept in good shape by the community and previous administrations and now we are able to go in and enhance them with the new HVAC, lighting and other features that make those buildings feel almost brand new,” Sheets said.
Sheets wanted to thank the community for passing the bond issue in November 2020 that raised $15 million to go with $13 million in funds the district allocated for building the connector and renovating the existing high school and middle school.
“When we went on the ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic and a presidential election, people told us it was the worst timing possible and that we would get voted down,” he said. “Instead, the community showed up and rallied around our district by passing the bond measure with over 60 percent of the vote.
“I’m so proud of this community and to lead this district. This is an addition that our community needed and deserved, and we are excited to show it off on Saturday and for our students and community to use it for years to come.”