Otsego school gets new life PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer   
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 09:11
Brittany Vollmar, 12, looks at the lockers at Otsego Jr. High School during the open house. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
TONTOGANY - Sunday's dedication of the renovated Otsego Junior High School marked an end in the school district, and a beginning.
It was the end of more than seven years of construction on the district's new school buildings on the combined Otsego campus.
And it was the beginning of a new phase in the district's life.
The event represented "a new era for Otsego students and our community," said Superintendent Adam Koch as he spoke before a gathered crowd of about 100 people in the school's refurbished gymnasium.
"Many generations will have the opportunity to come and learn in a neat environment."
The renovation of the 50-year-old building - formerly the district's high school - closed an often contentious project of construction and consolidation in the district. All of the district's elementary schools were closed and a new combined school on the Tontogany campus opened last year. The new high school was built in 2006. 
The junior high renovation cost just over $7 million to complete, and students in grades 6 through 8 will attend the building, which is attached to the current high school. During the renovations, junior high students went to the former Grand Rapids Elementary.
School Board member James Harter focused on community unity in his remarks.
"Suffice it to say, it was not easy" getting to this point, he said. And now, "it doesn't matter what side of the issue you stood on. We are one school community" where "diversity of thoughts and opinions are respected."
"We are Otsego. One school community," he repeatedly emphasized.
"Our Otsego community is coming closer together" with the combined school campus, said Marissa Morales, a student representative to the board, during her remarks.
"We learn from each other."
"I started here in 1990, and it was starting to show its age," said Junior High Principal Mike Wiley of the building in a recent interview. "It just looked like an old building. But now, when you walk into this building" it matches the amenities and aesthetics of the others.
Indeed, an updated look and attention to technology took center stage. Warm, dark wooden accents predominated. The lockers are painted a dark charcoal, and each office and classroom is marked with a sign depicting the Otsego Knight logo.
Seventh grade science teacher Pam Heyman was pleased with the renovation.
"It's a great building," she said. "Awesome classrooms."
She highlighted the technological upgrades, including the fact that all classrooms are wireless capable - a difference from past years, when her classes were a wireless "dead zone" and she had to go out into the hallway to get a signal. The district also has laptop computers and iPads for student use, as well as iPads for the teachers. There are smart boards in every class.
Incoming eighth-grader Keith Damshroder, Haskins, looking into the updated Media Center, said "I really like it. I'd say this is a good move."
"From last year, from him being in the Grand Rapids Elementary School," this is just wonderful," said Dorene, his mother.
"Beautiful, just beautiful," she added.
"It's a welcome change," said Keith's father, Scott. "I didn't expect such extensive renovations."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 11:47

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