(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Akron-Westfield Technology Coordinator Dwain Wilmot stands in the room that housed the AW Library. The room has been emptied and will be renovated this fall. It will be known as the Innovation Room. It will include spaces for small groups of students to work together as well as library books. Wilmot will have space in an adjacent room to work on technology and also use as a classroom.
AKRON – Students at Akron-Westfield Community School will see building activities and changes when they return to class on Tuesday, August 23.
Open House for all students begins at 5 p.m., Monday, August 22, with the Grade 6 Parent Orientation and Freshman Orientation at 6 p.m.
Superintendent Derek Briggs said Phase I of the board-approved three-phase bond projects will begin Aug. 15.
“There will be a bit of a delay as we put some projects back on hold for tenders as we did not get competitive bids for six of our projects,” he said.
The grand opening of a new addition to Vocational Technical Education will take place at 6 p.m., August 18.
“This will house the district’s woodworking area and our metal shop, adding approximately 6,000 square feet. Once this is complete, the current career technology area will be converted into a weight room and storage space,” Briggs said.
“The library area of the high school library will be redesigned and transformed into an innovation center. All books and materials have already been moved out of the area.
“It’s amazing when you pull out the room-sized furniture. It’s still going to be the library, but we’ll call it the innovation hub,” Briggs explained.
“There will be different modules where people can do work in small groups and there will be access to interactive televisions. There will always be library books here too,” he added.
Technology coordinator Dwain Wilmot occupies a room adjacent to the library space.
Once the renovation is complete, Wilmot will occupy a room currently used for storage which will be transformed into a small classroom and an area where he can repair some of the smaller tech items in the district.
“I can’t wait to have a bigger room that will also be a classroom for me. Otherwise, I traveled to different places,” said Wilmot, who teaches a physical computer course and a computer coding course.
What was once the ICN room and now a catch-all room will also be renovated.
“This room will be transformed into an elementary art room and will be closer to elementary classrooms,” Briggs noted.
Project in several phases
He expects construction of Phase I, except for the CTE building, to be completed by the end of December or January.
Phase II will begin in early 2023 and will include new high school and middle school science rooms, and combine high school art rooms and former elementary art rooms to create a larger space for high school students.
“The science area will absorb a small classroom and they’ll get new equipment so they can be turned into a really nice lab space,” Briggs said. “At the same time, our basic locker rooms will get a makeover.”
Once this is done, phase III of the project will consist of emptying and redeveloping the changing rooms of high schools and colleges.
Also on the list will be a remodel of the visitor entrance through the Elementary Offices.
“It will be completely remodeled and designed with a focus on school safety and will have a good check-in point for visitors,” Briggs explained.
The one-year ETC construction project will take one year. Once this is complete and the classroom is transformed, the old space will be renovated into a weight room.
There will also be upgrades and updates to the HVAC system throughout the building.
Focus on technology
Technology has been a priority for the AW School Board as they have invested significant sums over the past 10 years to transition the district to a 1-to-1 school, according to Briggs.
“Because of the way the board has supported this, we have been able to update our equipment on a fairly regular basis so that our students have the opportunity to have the latest technology in their hands and our teachers as well. With the tools they have in the classroom and the tools students have at their fingertips, we definitely want to make sure we support teachers in this area,” he continued.
The district has six countryside bus lines and one city line.
“We believe we are currently short of a driver, but our transportation manager has his CDL, so he will be driving,” Briggs said.
Athletics, involvement is the key
Athletics is also a big part of the school year for any school.
The summer season saw a new softball coach, Victor Mena, as longtime softball coach Todd Colt retired after 20 years. He remains a high school English teacher and district athletic director.
While a successful season is always enjoyable, Briggs said he considers student involvement important.
“We see it as part of everything we offer here and we absolutely love seeing the kids succeed. But involvement for us is key, and having great teachers who also coach and give kids the opportunity to try out whatever interests them is our goal,” Briggs said. “I guess I view the success of these programs as good as long as a good number of students are involved in the experience they have versus the results.”
Mastering a new role
On July 1, Briggs assumed a new role as district superintendent. This is a shared position with the Whiting Community School District, a role former Superintendent Randy Collins also held.
The sharing reveals that Briggs spends 60% of his time at AW and 40% at Whiting.
“Each district has its own strengths and challenges and I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by very strong people who can help both districts move in a positive direction,” Briggs said.
Getting ready for the New Year
He said the biggest key is to get all the staff in place before school starts.
“All of this is unsettled in both districts, and we are about a week and a half away from the start of school. We are not alone, I think a lot of school districts are dealing with this,” he said. “At this point in the game, you have to be creative and hope that the state will work with you to make sure you have authorized people in the classroom.”
With Briggs’ move to superintendent, Jeremy Mills became the new manager of 7-12.
Mills comes to AW after serving two years as a manager at Siouxland Christian. He also served in various Christian schools for 13 years.
Other new staff for the 2022-23 school year are: Max Anderson – Grade 6; Amber Brau – advice; Jerod Bruget – cross country head coach; Doug Bundy – full-time sub; Hailey Wait – Spanish; Marcia Finzen, Maria Goodman and Jersey Wendel – paraprofessionals; Cassie Hansen – college resource; Mariah Schilmoeller – high school resource; Madison Hemmelrick – Reading Title I; Megan Vander Lugt – Elemental TLC; Jerry Zimmerman – caretaker; and Tabi Harris – marketing coordinator.
Briggs said he can’t wait for the school year to begin.
“I’ve been here all summer and when you get the facilities up and running and planning, you really don’t know how it’s going to be until the students arrive,” he said. “My favorite time of year is the start of the school year and I can’t wait to get these kids back here and the energy they bring. It will be exciting.