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Washington Voices

Modern Freeman High School set to open Sept. 7

Thu., Sept. 2, 2010

On the first day of high school, it’s common for freshmen to get lost on their way to classes. They are in a strange new school with unfamiliar hallways and new locker combinations.

When Freeman High School opens its doors on Sept. 7, there will be more students than just the freshmen finding their way to their classes. The school, which has been under construction since June 2009, will be new for everyone, with modern classrooms, a larger gym and bigger, wider hallways.

“It’s state of the art,” said Superintendent Sergio Hernandez.

The rooms have motion detectors to sense when someone is in the room and turn on the lights. There are projectors on the ceiling for video presentations using document cameras or computers. The orange walls are what Hernandez calls, “self-healing.” Teachers can use tacks or staples to hang documents on the walls and the holes will disappear when the tacks are removed.

“The whole building is wireless,” Hernandez said.

The new gym in the building dwarfs its old gym – the ceiling is much higher and the sound system is new. The old gym is in the process of getting new flooring and will soon be open for use, but the new gym will be home to not only the Scotties. Hernandez said he is already receiving requests for tournaments in the new facility.

There are two science labs in the new building; the old school had only one. With the new technology of the building, Hernandez said it will change the way classes are taught.

“It will enhance everything that we do,” he said.

Perhaps the best view in the new school is in the art room. Large windows take up most of two wallsletting in plenty of natural light and revealing the surrounding hills and evergreens.

Hernandez said the fire department tested its new fire suppression system – three tanks containing 100,000 gallons of water each are on campus and the school has its own fire pump to sustain 2,000 gallons a minute for one to two hours. Located in a rural area, Freeman must also take care of its own water, sewer and garbage services.

Hernandez said the architecture of the new building reflects that of the old. Wooden beams that ran along the ceilings are still there, reminding everyone of the old school which was open for 50 years.

The weight room opened in May and Hernandez said the students are already taking ownership. They make sure all the weights have been put away after every use and the equipment is kept clean. Once the school is up and running, Hernandez hopes to open the weight room to the community when students aren’t using it – free of charge.

The alternative high school is in the new building, too. The students will have their own entrance, restrooms and an office for the teachers.

“They can feel part of a program,” Hernandez said.

Principal Dave Smith loves his new facility.

“It’s awesome. We’re excited. It will be interesting to see how the kids react to it,” he said.

The project was funded through a $19.5 million voter-approved school bond and the district received $10.5 million in state matching funds. Hernandez said the project was completed on time and on budget.

Next up for the district, the elementary school will receive a major overhaul and the middle school will receive some upgrades as well. There will be a new multipurpose room built between those two schools.

Construction will start on that project soon and the elementary school students will spend this school year in the portables the high school students used during the 2009-10 school year.

If there is one feature that Hernandez appreciates the most about the new high school, it is what it means for the residents in the surrounding area.

“It’s going to be a very nice gathering place for the community.”

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