NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – The Newport Greyhounds are improvingtheir doghouse.
The new semester has brought not just new classes for thestudents but a few building upgrades for the high school.
The renovations at Newport High School read more like alaundry list right now. Crews have already started working in the gym, but soonthey will turn their tools elsewhere to bring some of the high school's olderfacilities into the present day.
Nothing has changed to the exterior of the GreyhoundFieldhouse where the girls and boys basketball teams play. Inside, however, fansshould notice a big difference. Workers have replaced the old wooden, backless bleacherswith new stadium seats that are black but spell out NHS in orange.
"Our fans, our taxpayers can come in and sit morecomfortably and enjoy the game," Superintendent Dr. Larry Bennett said. "[Theseats] have just given a new look and of course put some more orange and blackcolors in the gym."
Dr. Bennett says the new seating scored a victory with fansat the latest basketball game.
"The last ball game we had, it was packed," said LeightonMcCrary, the head boys basketball coach. "We had a lot of people. Everyone wasenjoying it. I was watching the people going up in the stands, and they justkept looking around, looking at their seats like this is something new. It wasenjoyable watching that."
Coaches like McCrary are even more excited about anotherchange coming to the fieldhouse. Crews are in the midst of working to install ageothermal air conditioning system in the gym. Amee McGuire, the head girlsbasketball coach, says the air conditions will change everything for playersthat need to practice in the usually sweltering gym during the summer.
"It's tough in here through the summer when [the volleyballplayers] start practicing," McGuire said. "In the fall when we start back toschool, a box fan doesn't do much for you."
These are just two of a number of improvements planned atthe high school. The district plans to spend a total of $8 million that it has collectedfrom refinancing bonds and acquiring new ones to fund upgrades not just at thegym. Dr. Bennett expects the school board to accept bids next week to renovatethe high school auditorium.
"We're replacing seats, painting, new lights, curtains – thewhole thing," he said about the renovations in the auditorium. "It will reallybe a totally fresh look."
The money has also allowed the school to convert one of itsformer wood shops into the Hungry Hound Café complete with a fully stockedkitchen and dining room. The superintendent says the café will serve as aculinary arts entrepreneurship program for students starting in February.
"[The Hungry Hound Café] is a training opportunity for kidsto learn how to operate a business in the food industry," Dr. Bennett said. "Everythingwe're trying to do is prepare kids for the future, find out what theirinterests are and run them through that kind of program to prepare them fortechnical college, the world of work or the university system – whatever meetstheir needs."
The district also plans to renovate all the science labs inthe John W. Mullins Technical Building in the coming months so that studentshave updated equipment to study science.
Dr. Bennett expects the air conditioning in the gym to beinstalled by May, while the renovations in the auditorium should be done byJune. It is unclear when the science lab upgrades will be completed.