Renovation projects abound at Newport High School - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Renovation projects abound at Newport High School

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – The Newport Greyhounds are improving their doghouse.

The new semester has brought not just new classes for the students but a few building upgrades for the high school.

The renovations at Newport High School read more like a laundry list right now. Crews have already started working in the gym, but soon they will turn their tools elsewhere to bring some of the high school's older facilities into the present day.

Nothing has changed to the exterior of the Greyhound Fieldhouse where the girls and boys basketball teams play. Inside, however, fans should notice a big difference. Workers have replaced the old wooden, backless bleachers with new stadium seats that are black but spell out NHS in orange.

"Our fans, our taxpayers can come in and sit more comfortably and enjoy the game," Superintendent Dr. Larry Bennett said. "[The seats] have just given a new look and of course put some more orange and black colors in the gym."

Dr. Bennett says the new seating scored a victory with fans at the latest basketball game.

"The last ball game we had, it was packed," said Leighton McCrary, the head boys basketball coach. "We had a lot of people. Everyone was enjoying it. I was watching the people going up in the stands, and they just kept looking around, looking at their seats like this is something new. It was enjoyable watching that."

Coaches like McCrary are even more excited about another change coming to the fieldhouse. Crews are in the midst of working to install a geothermal air conditioning system in the gym. Amee McGuire, the head girls basketball coach, says the air conditions will change everything for players that need to practice in the usually sweltering gym during the summer.

"It's tough in here through the summer when [the volleyball players] start practicing," McGuire said. "In the fall when we start back to school, a box fan doesn't do much for you."

These are just two of a number of improvements planned at the high school. The district plans to spend a total of $8 million that it has collected from refinancing bonds and acquiring new ones to fund upgrades not just at the gym. Dr. Bennett expects the school board to accept bids next week to renovate the high school auditorium.

"We're replacing seats, painting, new lights, curtains – the whole thing," he said about the renovations in the auditorium. "It will really be a totally fresh look."

The money has also allowed the school to convert one of its former wood shops into the Hungry Hound Café complete with a fully stocked kitchen and dining room. The superintendent says the café will serve as a culinary arts entrepreneurship program for students starting in February.

"[The Hungry Hound Café] is a training opportunity for kids to learn how to operate a business in the food industry," Dr. Bennett said. "Everything we're trying to do is prepare kids for the future, find out what their interests are and run them through that kind of program to prepare them for technical college, the world of work or the university system – whatever meets their needs."

The district also plans to renovate all the science labs in the John W. Mullins Technical Building in the coming months so that students have updated equipment to study science.

Dr. Bennett expects the air conditioning in the gym to be installed by May, while the renovations in the auditorium should be done by June. It is unclear when the science lab upgrades will be completed.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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