When St. Clair High School students return from winter break on Jan. 3, there is a good possibility they will notice at least the beginnings of some changes to the look of the inside of their building.
The R-XIII board of education this month approved spending about $26,000 from its capital projects fund to relocate the counselors office. The work requires four new doors to be cut into the current block and brick in the main hallway across the entrance of the high school office.
“The space currently is inadequate for our guidance office,” said R-XIII Superintendent Mike Murphy, who recommended the project to board members on Dec. 20. “We’re seeking a pretty good short-term decision here that also may serve us in the long term.”
Currently, the guidance office is located in a converted classroom west of the main office. The change will move the office east of the main office in front of the choir room.
Sketched plans shown to board members during their meeting included six potential new offices, a reception area and a conference room. Special education rooms also will move east closer to the cafeteria.
Murphy said he hopes to start construction over the winter break. The first order of business will be to cut the four new doorways because that noise would disrupt classroom activity during a school day.
Once that is done, crews would be able to continue to work in the enclosed areas being converted. If noise levels would interfere after classes resume, that kind of work would have to be done after school or on Saturdays, Murphy said.
The price tag includes the cost to cut the four new doorways, four additional interior office doors, fire alarms and intercoms, drop ceilings and lighting and heating-air conditioning upgrades including individual climate controls.
The total approximate cost for all the work is $25,900.
St. Clair Fire Marshal Craig Sullivan approved the project the day after the board meeting. Murphy said it’s now a matter of getting crews lined up to start the work as soon as possible. Permits through the city also are being sought.
Murphy said the model would double the amount of space for guidance counselors Jena Carroll and Amy Click. It also would provide increased privacy for individual conferences to occur. The old guidance office will be converted back to a classroom.
“Confidentiality is a real concern in the counseling area,” Murphy said. “This new space allows for individual conferences to occur as well as group discussions in a multi-use space.”
The superintendent said he envisions the area to look professional and like new when completed. The goal would be to have the project completed by the time registration begins in the spring.
“We tried to be as cost-effective as we could with this,” Murphy said.
When asked if this is something SCHS needs, Murphy said yes.
“I’m sharing with you the cost versus the need,” he said. “I think this is a very sound investment.”
He continued by explaining that there has been a need to expand the guidance area for some time, but that need really was brought to the forefront after the district dealt with the aftermath from the recent suicides of three high school students.
As the district moved forward after the three deaths that occurred in a seven-week period ending in mid-November, every high school student was talked to by a counselor and many were visited with more than once. Professionals from several outside organizations assisted in the process, and Murphy said at times computer labs as well as every available space was used.
“We do need to upgrade,” board President Dave Berkel said. “And this would be good for the kids.”