Azle High School students began occupying the building that houses the current Azle Junior High School back in 1953.
High school students had previously used the Rock Building for classes. That building now houses the district’s administration. The current high school on FM 730 was built in 1970.
So, the district has a history of retrofitting buildings as needs dictate.
But can the current junior high school – the oldest building in the district – continue to be used as a secondary campus, or will it need to be replaced or expanded in the future? An analysis performed by VLK Architects will offer some insight into that building’s future, and its report is likely due back in the spring. The building features seventh and eighth grades.
The district’s Long Range Facilities Planning Committee is examining current buildings to determine what should be placed in a new bond election that could go to residents next year.
Some history on the junior high
The football field and stadium were built before the current high school came along. The junior high school took over the former high school campus in 1970, and additions have happened there since.
“I don’t know that I could necessarily put a timeline on how much longer it’s functional, because our maintenance guys and custodial crew do a great job of maintaining the building,” said Matt Adams, AISD assistant superintendent of finance and operations, concerning the junior high. “It’s definitely functional today. Part of the issue is it’s been added on to multiple times, so there are several buildings. So, kids have to go in and out of buildings just to get to classes, which we all know in today’s world is a bit of a safety concern.”
He said the other issue is that some classrooms are too small for the student capacity.
“They were fine when you were putting 10 to 12 in a class; now that you’re putting 20 to 25 in a class, they’re just so small,” he said. “And the same thing with the cafeteria (when it) was built. We’ve got kids sitting out in the lobby and front foyer during lunches because the cafeteria is not big enough to seat 200 kids at a time.”
The cafeteria seats about 140-150 students now. AJHS’s enrollment is 585 students.
“And you can look at some of your programs, too, like band and choir, for example,” Adams said. “Those spaces are real small for the number of students we have in the programs now.”
A look at the cost
Adams said an estimated cost for a new junior high school campus would be about $100-$150 million. Costs are rising because of an increase in construction materials, Adams said.
“I was at a workshop last week and they were showing us numbers that just in the last three to four years, the price of structural steel has increased by 300%,” he said in an interview on Nov. 3. “All of your HVAC units and equipment has increased by 250%. It’s just material (cost rising).”
A new junior high school’s construction would now take about 24-36 months for completion, Adams said.
The junior high has some other elements that need to be updated, such as restrooms, science labs and locker rooms. Some spaces could be upgraded, but a lot of those spaces need more capacity. The capacity of the campus shows to be 700 students, Adams said.
Adams said he couldn’t say for sure that the school would need to be replaced in the next decade, but the district will have to do something about capacity in the next 10 years, “whether that is replacing it with a new campus that is larger or continuing to add and expand the existing campus.”
The district could continue to add to the campus, but …
“You’re going to deal with some of the same issues that we’re talking about, though,” Adams said. “There’s nowhere to add like a wing to the existing building without substantial construction. It would be more just adding another building, and here’s access to that building.”
Grade configuration is something that the committee could recommend to the school board, and that would definitely affect the junior high school.
“Because if we move to a sixth, seventh and eighth (campus), then we have to decide are we going to expand Azle Junior High or build a new campus?” Adams said. “Because the way it’s currently set up, they couldn’t just take on another grade level.”
Adding another grade level would mean closer to 300 new students attending classes at the building, Adams said.
“Because of supply chain issues and just labor issues – labor shortages – they’re telling us that a construction project that five years ago would have a 12-month timeline now is more like on an 18- to 24-month timeline,” Adams said.
Crews have started work on high school projects, which includes a new science wing. Some of the existing science labs are being renovated, and when all is said and done, the school will have 14 science labs that meet current Texas Education Agency standards. Also at the campus, the kitchen and cafeteria are being renovated, and then an additional welding shop is going in at the Career and Technical Education center. All projects should be completed, district officials hope, by the beginning of the 2024 school year.
Slabs have been poured for two-thirds of the new Hilltop Elementary building, Adams said, and walls are going up in the cafeteria/gym area.
- Wade Blake
- KAYLEE PIPPINS firstname.lastname@example.org
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