Construction is on track at the site of the new Columbia City High School, according to officials for Whitley County Consolidated Schools. Winter weather has had little impact on the project’s timeline.
The school corporation broke ground on the project last June. The new 250,000-square-foot high school – the only new high school in the state of Indiana – will replace the nearly 60-year-old school on North Whitley Street in Columbia City.
The site is located south of Columbia City on S.R. 9 in what was once an empty field. The new high school is being constructed on the same 82-acres as the neighboring Little Turtle Elementary and Indian Springs Middle schools.
Fanning Howey is the architecture firm on the project, and Skillman Corp. is doing construction.
According to Jacob Hoag, construction liaison for WCCS, Skillman Corp. has accomplished a substantial amount of masonry work around the gymnasium and athletics area. Masonry can only be done when temperatures are above freezing. Hoag said construction crews have been able to take advantage of milder winter days.
“As we’ve had some of those warmer days, we’ve been fortunate that the masons have been able to come back on site and continue some of that work,” he said.
In colder weather, the builders have shifted their attention to steel construction on the academic wing.
“Now that it’s cold, we’re focusing on the other end of the building, which is primarily steel construction. That can be done at any temperature, so we’ve shifted our focus to steel over the winter months,” Hoag said.
The high school’s exterior is anticipated to be complete by next winter so that work can begin on the building’s interior.
High school layout
The new high school will have three sections. The section furthest from S.R. 9 will house the gymnasium and athletics area.
The middle section will house the auditorium, cafeteria, administrative offices and fine arts classrooms. Superintendent Patricia O’Connor said the large commons will be a multipurpose area that will accommodate everything from student dining to overflow from the media center.
The building’s concept is to give each space more than one purpose so that every area is utilized.
“All of the spaces are very flexible and have multiple uses. One of the things that we really wanted to do was provide as much flexibility everywhere because who knows what education will look like in 50 more years,” O’Connor said.
The section closest to S.R. 9 will house the two-story academic wing. O’Connor said the academic wing will be divided into an academy model that allows teachers to work closely with a group of students.
“The idea is to provide more support for the kids and get to know the families better and set expectations together as a team to help the kids be more successful,” she said.
Eagle Tech Academy, which is currently housed in the former Marshal Middle School building, will be incorporated into the new building, but have a separate entrance and different learning spaces.
The program’s 400 students will be able to take elective classes in the other parts of the school. At this time, they take a shuttle between the academy and the high school.
“We wanted it to maintain its uniqueness and climate and culture so it definitely is a separate school within a school,” O’Connor said.
She said that the building that currently houses the academy is in great shape so the plan is to repurpose it into an adult education center. Huntington University, Ivy Tech and the Whitley County Economic Development Corp. could use the center to provide job training, certification and associates degree programs.
Moving forward, the school corporation plans to seek annexation from the city for the school property and the new high school will remain “Columbia City High School,” O’Connor said.
Completion of the new high school is anticipated by the 2020-2021 school year.