While the Waynesville High School Campus Completion project will open up much needed space for the district, administrators believe it will also enhance students' overall high school experience.

The $20 million project will include a 49,500 square foot Ninth Grade Center (located next to the high school), and several additions and renovations to the existing high school building.

“We're building this project with the anticipation of future growth,” said Waynesville R-VI School District assistant superintendent for operational services Dr. Jon Oetinger. “We've seen a lot of growth. Our students were crowded and we needed more space.”

When the current high school building began construction in 2002, the average enrollment for the school was 1,200 students.

Today, more than 1,600 students crowd the hallways of Waynesville High School, a building created for a capacity of 1,500 students.

The Ninth Grade Center will include 24 classrooms, including four science labs and a 150-person lecture hall. Six of the classrooms will be English and social studies classrooms connected with partition walls, which make it easy combine classes and open up spaces when needed.

District administrators said that while the building will serve as an area designated for freshmen, but will be used by students in other grades as well.

“It will be a huge asset for the district to have one primary location for freshmen with a full staff who are focused just to meet freshmen needs,” Superintendent Dr. Judene Blackburn said.

The project also includes a renovation to the cafeteria, adding 5,400 square feet to the cafeteria and a kitchen-expansion, and a library expansion with two new computer labs.

“We will be moving from four lunch shifts to three, which will help the schedule a lot and will make for less-crowded lunches,” Blackburn said.

Besides the obvious advantages of the added classroom spaces, the completion project will also include facilities that administrators feel will enhance existing programs within the school.

The physical education program at the high school will add several different classes, with the completion of a Crossfit facility and multi-purpose fitness room which will be used for aerobics, yoga, and other fitness classes.

“Our additional fitness room and Crossfit room will really allow for the P.E. program to expand, which is important for high school students,” Blackburn said. “Having the exposure of a variety activities will help prepare students for better health throughout their lives.”

The project will also include an Early Childhood Lab in the Ninth Grade Center. The lab will be an area designated for the program in which high schoolers teach preschool age children.

Before the lab, the program was held in a room in the middle of the high school, which made it difficult for parents to drop off their young children.

“This way children and parents don't have to deal with the madness of passing periods,” Oetinger said. “The new lab will have its own outside entrance that's easily secured.”

The band and ceramics rooms will also be expanded.

“I'm excited about the fact that several programs will be able to move to larger classrooms because of the amount of space the Ninth Grade Center is opening up.”

Blackburn said that this project is a key component to the overall vision of the district to have top facilities.

“We're always competing with ourselves to do better,” Blackburn said. “I feel like we benchmark to others more than we compete.”

The completion of this expansion project, set for September, will allow the high school to accommodate 2,200 students. While the district has maintained a a growth rate of 1.5 per per year, this project will allow the district to have room for growth for twenty years in the high school.