ISHPEMING - The Westwood High School science wing is getting the finishing touches put on a major renovation.
The project started last spring and included the complete renovation of five rooms at a cost of more than $500,000, which was paid for through the NICE Community School District's sinking fund millage.
"We've just been so fortunate to have a community that supports us here at this building," Westwood principal David Boase said. "They have literally, through that sinking fund, allowed us to maintain our building and modernize our building."
Westwood High School seniorsSara DeLongchamp, front, and Sarah Massie look through chemicals in one of the newly renovated preparation rooms recently at Westwood High School in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
With the building more than 35 years old, the main concern with the science wing was the safety of the students, Boase said. Electrical wiring needed to be replace, sinks were leaking, table tops were loose and threatening to break the gas lines and there were no handicap accessible lab stations in the rooms, he said.
The entire wing was gutted and all of those safety concerns were fixed as well as proper venting system, a new sprinkler system, an updated shower and eye-washing station and new fire extinguishers, fire blankets and first-aid kits.
There were some technology upgrades made to the wing, as well. These include flat screen TVs, Blu-ray and DVD players, overhead projectors, a new surround sound system and a few new gadgets in each of the science rooms to aid in lab classes.
The district is now looking into upgrading the wireless system and possibly getting SMART Boards for students to interact with lessons and webcams, so lesson can be posted online for students who are ill, Boase said.
"We really felt as though giving our students an updated current science facility to work out of is going to really help students later, no matter what they plan on doing later in life," NICE Superintendent Bryan DeAugustine said.
The school feels it's important to keep up with the science, technology, engineering and math - or STEM - initiative in Michigan education, DeAugustine said.
"We feel that renovating our labs in the classrooms is a great step in the right direction," he said.
When it came to decide what needed to be renovated in the rooms, the school took input from the science teachers, because they are the ones who use the rooms, Boase said.
"We've had a chance to live with that science pod since 1974 and the science teachers said, 'this is what would be most useful and how we could maximize the use of the space,' " Boase said. "So some of that was real simple, (such) as just providing better access to the labs and to the outside."
Julie Luehmann has worked at Westwood for 24 years and is currently teaching earth science and chemistry. Luehmann said the way the rooms are set up now is real nice.
"In the chemistry lab, there is more room for the students to move around and we have an extra station," Luehmann said. "The handicapped accessible stations work wonderfully for those students because they are actually allowed to participate in more."
Luehmann also said the safety upgrades were badly needed and she is pleased with them.
The science wing includes three classrooms - biology, physics and chemistry - and two lab preparation rooms with a large lab in the middle.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.