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Waynesboro High School celebrates completion of Phase 1 of renovations

By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press

Waynesboro Public SchoolsWAYNESBORO — Little Giants pride is unaffected by the economy, a pandemic or wintery weather.

But Waynesboro High School students and staff have a renewed sense of pride in their school with the completion of Phase 1 of 3 of renovations at the school as of this month.

After several years of discussion at school board and city council meetings, debates about tearing down the 1937 building and constructing an all-new school versus renovations, the first phase of bringing Waynesboro High into the 21st Century architecturally is complete.

“I think when you talk about renovations, it’s more than just brick and mortar. It’s about [the opportunity to offer more courses],” said Waynesboro High Principal Bryan Stamm.

Renovations at the high school will give staff opportunities to work in areas they are “passionate about,” while students acquire a “full range” of course experience.

“We’re excited not to have disruptions,” Stamm said of the completion of the renovations.

However, he said, he wishes all of the staff and students could enjoy the school with phase 1 of renovations done, and eventually they will when the pandemic is over.

In the meantime, the extra space at the school has enabled students and staff to remain safe.

“It’s allowed our instructional aides and other staff to really spread out,” Stamm said.

When all staff and students can return to the school, Stamm said the renovations will allow “us to be creative in how we use our spaces, and how they benefit our staff.”

“All of [the renovations] are needed, and all of them are appreciated.”

Stamm said that the renovations “demonstrate our school board’s commitment to our students.”

According to Waynesboro Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Cassell, phase 1 of renovations of the high school began in June 2019 with the installation of a new roof. In September 2019, work began on the original high school building built in 1937 and the addition built in the 1950s.

Budgeted at $21 million, Cassell said “the project will finish within that budget.”

“I am pleased with the renovations of the 1930s and 1950s buildings, as well as the addition and renovation of new learning spaces and site improvements,” said Cassell. “These renovations have modernized the facilities, provided a greatly improved learning environment, and updated many safety and security features.”

The most impactful part of the renovations, according to Stamm, is the rooms for performance art. Theater and band students now have a scene shop room and green room.

“It’s also nice to see that fresh look,” Stamm said.

Old classrooms in the school had few electrical outlets, but the new classrooms provide more outlets.

“The performance art section was a huge bonus for our school,” Stamm said.

Staff hope to eventually provide classes in set design and other theater-related courses for Waynesboro students, which would not have been possible before the renovations in and next to the Louis Spilman Auditorium.

Stamm said that four or five years ago, Waynesboro High went from being one building “to where now we’re kind of becoming a campus.”

The school has a CTE annex, housed in the former The News Virginian building at 1300 W. Main Street, and just behind the high school the STEP Learning Lab provides real-world experience for young adults with special needs.

A date is not yet set for phase 2 of renovations to begin, Cassell said, but the focus of phase 2 will be demolition of the 1970s addition and building a new wing designed to serve as a media center.

Phase 2 will also include classrooms that will be “dedicated to science labs, math and technology instructional spaces.”

Phase 3 of renovations of the high school will include construction of a competition-size gymnasium with regulation size floor, adequate seating and field house facilities, including locker rooms and offices for coaches.

“This addition would open to the existing sports fields and track facilities,” Cassell said.

Tim Teachey, now Waynesboro Schools Executive Director of Instruction, was principal of the high school when renovations began, and Stamm was assistant principal.

The 2020-2021 academic year is Stamm’s second year as principal of Waynesboro High. He said that the plan for phase 1 of renovations introduced in 2017 “is pretty much close to what we ended up with.”

Stamm is excited to hold a public open house of the school when the pandemic is over, and share the completed renovations with the community.

He said students and staff are “just grateful to our school board and city and central office” for making the renovations happen.

“I’m a firm believer that your school is a statement of what you value,” Stamm said.

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