Upgraded campus awaits BHS students

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Upgraded campus awaits BHS studentsAs the Sierra Sands Unified School District team and partners prepare to open a brandnew campus to Murray Middle School students, some $32 million in renovations are wrapping up across the street at Burroughs High School.

“The entire campus has been painted and looks brand new!” said SSUSD Superintendent Ernie Bell. “I am extremely excited about getting to the finish line, as I know the rewards and benefits will be enjoyed by many generations of our teachers, students, parents and community members.”

The improvements were funded in part by a federal grant to modernize military-impacted schools. Although BHS has benefited from Measure A improvements and grant-funded projects like the Career Technical Education building, the most recent upgrades are the most significant in the 60-year history of the school.

Classrooms have been completely remodeled to include new carpeting, technology and teaching walls. The corridors have been redesigned to incorporate lockers, which will in turn make way for a new quad bedecked with seating, shade, hardscaping and LEDs.

Principal Bryan Auld said he was excited about all the changes.

“Of course, all the classroom and hallway improvements are significant. However, the one thing I am most excited about is the new HVAC systems.” The poor design of the previous system was so noisy it interfered with the learning environment.

“Just reading aloud or giving a presentation practically required yelling.”

The new system is not only more quiet, but also more energy efficient.

Auld pointed to improved access for students, employees and visitors with handicaps, and improved safety measures that include pedestrian pathways, lighting and more.

For the “Friday Night Lights” crowd, stadium improvements include new concession and restroom facilities, more up-to-date lighting and a new PA system.

“It is very modern, clean and beautiful,” said Auld. The gymnasium also has a new floor. “I think people will really be impressed by it.”

There are a few areas of the school — including locker rooms and C Hall — which will not be completed before school begins. Bell said that the Division of State Architect has been a major source of delay in the project.

However, both he and Auld acknowledged that students, teachers and parents have been patient and supportive during the transition.

While improved technology and efficiency have driven many of the changes, some reflect cultural shifts in our own community. When BHS was first built, it was oriented toward the base — where most of the students lived.

“There was actually a walk-through gate with a uniformed guard checking badges of students and parents for many years,” recalled Bell, whose family has spent three generations at the school.

“For many years we have thought about ways of trying to re-orient the campus facing the south and the city of Ridgecrest,” where the majority of the students now reside.

The grant has allowed the district to refocus the entrance to the southwest corner of the campus, where new administration buildings will eventually be erected.

“We have new student parking lots, student dropoff zones, bus dropoff/pickup zones and general traffic flow procedures,” said Bell. “We will have traffic signs and employee presence to help identify proper travel patterns and traffic control. The Ridgecrest Police Department will also be present for traffic and safety purposes.”

Auld said the school has also added a new exit at the northwest corner of the campus, noting that the changes should improve efficiency and congestion.

A final flourish was negotiated late in the project.

“As we worked through pre-construction, I realized that much of the work planned was to be done on the interior of the campus or inside the facilities. I realized that most of the community will either never or rarely get into those spaces,” said Auld.

“I can say without hesitation, there are considerable improvements on campus that are awesome. But nothing catches the eye and leaves such a positive and proud feeling as the ‘facelift’ created with new paint,” he said.

He praised home-grown C Martin Company for going above and beyond the requirements “to get this school looking the best it has since it was brand-new in 1958. Their attention to detail and pride for their alma mater really shows in the beautiful work that they have provided. It is truly awesome.”

In addition to the inviting changes in front of the school, the historically empty lots around the campus are starting to attract infrastructure and quality-of-life developments.

“The school- and community- related partnerships that we have developed over these many years are critical components related to the outstanding success of our schools,” said Bell.

He directed students and parents to the district’s website (ssusdschools.org) and Facebook page for a map of traffic-flow patterns.

Pictured: A contractor puts the finishing touches on the refurbished gymnasium at Burroughs High School. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-08-11