Wednesday, August 6, 2014

WCMS now open and ready for students

J-E News Editor
On Monday, August 4, 2014, officials with the Webster County School District made history when they officialy opened the new Webster County Middle School (WCMS) in Dixon. When classing begin on Thursday, August 7, 2014, all seventh and eighth grade students in the county will be housed under the same roof for the first time.

Officials said on Monday that they expect between 340 and 345 students on the first day of classes.
Although former Webster County High School (WCHS) students might not recognize it, the bulk of WCMS is what was once known to high school students as ‘the math hall.’ That hallway was mostly abandoned several years ago following damages suffered in a tornado, with classrooms being moved to other areas of the school. When the district began looking at plans to build a middle school, renovating the existing structure was far cheaper than building an entirely new one. In late 2012 the school board approved the $4.5 million project.
Construction of WCMS has been a long process, fraught with setbacks and delays. Almost two years have passed since the school board voted in 2012 to proceed with the project. At that time only two out of the five current members of the board of education had seats on the board, and the former project architect promised that the building would be ready for an August 2013 opening.
In November of 2012 that changed, when architect Scott Noel notified the board that delays in getting permits back from the KDE would push the opening back until at least Christmas of 2013. Not wanting to transition middle school students during the school year, the board voted to push the project back by one year.
An exceptionally cold and snowy winter caused more delays to construction. Construction to the cafeteria in the Webster County Annex, which will serve students in WCMS, WCHS and Dixon Elementary, was delayed by several weeks as students remained in class later than  was originally expected.
But on Monday, all of the waiting paid off when district leaders officially opened the middle school.
Time to learn
By locating the middle school at the central campus in Dixon, the district has opened the door to new learning opportunities to Webster County seventh and eighth graders.
For the first time middle school teachers and students will have access to the resources of Webster County Area Technology Center (ATC). ATC already offers certificate level training to WCHS students in Computer Aided Drafting, Nursing, Welding and Business.
According to Superintendent Dr. Rachel Yarbrough, students at the middle school will have the opportunity to participate in a limited amount of classes at the ATC. The ‘exploratory type classes’ will be designed to allow middle schoolers to see if anything sparks their interest.
The new middle school will also come equipped with some brand new ‘state of the art’ technology. According to Riley Ramsey, Webster County Director of Technology, each classroom will be equipped with an Epson Interactive White Board. These boards allow any wall to be turned into an interactive work area where teachers can show videos and other things directly from their computer.
“With these installed, every classroom in the district will now have either a projector or a smartboard,” Ramsey said.
Each classroom also comes equipped with a new PC for the teacher and at least two PCs for student use. The rooms are also wired to allow for expansion in the future, and each room has the capability to offer Wi-Fi through the district’s internet servers.
Time to eat
Major overhauls of the Annex in Dixon were required in order for the cafeteria to serve the additional students and staff  WCMS will bring to the Dixon campus, but according to Dr. Yarbrough everything is on track to be ready for the first day of class.
“There are still a few pieces that need to be connected,” she reported. “But the equipment is all in and ready to hook up.”
Time to go home
Another consideration of the middle school development is the impact on the already busy traffic flow through the area in the afternoons. At the beginning and end of every school day US 41A is packed with students, parents, teachers and buses heading to and from the central campus, which includes Webster County High School, Dixon Elementary, Webster County Tech School and the alternative school. The middle school will add nearly three hundred new students, as well as their parents and teachers to that traffic flow.
To help alleviate traffic congestion the district has staggered the start and end time for the schools. Dixon Elementary class will run from 7:40 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with WCHS/WCMS being in session from 7:50 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.
On Monday morning district officials met to make a few last minute changes to the traffic patterns on the central campus.
“The busses have always picked students up in front of the high school,” Yarbrough said. “Now we will bring the busses down to the new horseshoe (by the middle school) to separate them from the parents and student drivers. After the busses are released, the other vehicles can go.”

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