New look at Marietta High

A nearly $600,000 project designed to keep all of Marietta High School’s students under one roof and allow the doors to remain locked throughout the day is under way.

Employees of Marietta-based Grae-Con Construction set up a trailer in the parking lot on the Davis Avenue side of the building on May 24, the last day of school.

“The next morning we started with the demolition of the concrete under the canopy,” said Ron Ryan, project superintendent.

Over the summer, workers will be enclosing that canopy with concrete block so students can get from the main, four-level building to the auditorium and gymnasium without going outside. On the Colegate Drive side, approximately 5,800 square feet of classroom space will be added to allow classes currently held in the nearby district administration building to be held in the main building as well.

Keeping students indoors will allow the school to utilize the locking mechanisms on its doors, which could not be done under the current configuration due to a constant stream of students going in and out when classes change.

“None of the kids (will) have to go outside at any point,” Ryan said. “They can be within the confines of the building at any point.”

The Marietta City Board of Education approved a contract with Grae-Con last month after declaring the project an “urgent necessity” and foregoing formal bidding practices in March. It had been discussed prior to the December shootings that claimed the lives of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but school officials said that incident accelerated the process.

Marietta High School junior Lain Weppler said the project is a good idea.

“People are always roaming around, and that’s not safe,” she said.

Marietta resident Adriana Heisler, 51, whose daughter will be a junior in the upcoming school year, also had a positive view of the project.

“I think it’s a good idea, even though I know Marietta is pretty much a safe town,” she said.

Heisler’s one concern was about a lower-level door to the auditorium that students often use.

Dave Davis, transportation, buildings and grounds manager for Marietta City Schools, said that door will be locked from the outside so it can still be used as an emergency exit.

The walkway will be enclosed with concrete block, Davis said. There will be windows to provide natural light, but they will be up high enough that someone couldn’t shoot through them at students, he said.

Although it will be a tight schedule, Ryan said Grae-Con is aiming to have the work substantially finished by the time school resumes in August. To save money, the district will have its employees do some painting, electrical and other work, all of which will not be done by the time classes start.

“We’ll be done enough (by fall) that we can have school and kids will be there safely,” Davis said.

Although the door locks will be engaged, some classes will continue in the administration building for a while as employees install heating and wiring in the Colegate Drive addition, Davis said. They’re hoping to have it ready for classes by the start of the second semester. There will also likely be some work left to be done on the walkway as well.