BOE discusses updated building plans for new high school


DLR Architect Kirby Pennington shared an update for the new Hays High School during Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Pennington showed a video walkthrough of the new high school design before handing off the presentation to the interior designer, Abby Baker.

Baker said the team drew a lot of inspiration from a compass when designing the interior.

“This idea of the compass being this thing that kind of guides travelers on their journeys and relating that to high school, helping to guide students through their education and further onto their path in life,” Baker said. 

Throughout the design, a lot of the textures and designs were inspired by maps and topographical drawings. 

“In the midst of it all, we really wanted to drive home the point that Hays is home and you can always find home in the community here,” Baker said. “No matter how far your journey may take you, this is always the place you can come back to.”

The classrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows facing the hallway, something board member Kurt Vajnar questioned. 

“I taught for 31 years, if I’m teaching and three kids walk by, there goes my whole audience,” Vajnar said. 

Baker reassured Vajnar that there would be shades to cover all the windows.

Students in the high school woods program will still use the current woods shop, even after the new school is built. 

“We really dove into this middle school building and you really have an excess amount of space,” Penington said. “With the cost of square footage being as astronomical as it is, you have quite a bit of extra space, particularly in that E Building.” 

The design team then decided it made more sense to just use the existing wood shop since the new building will be right next door. 

“When we originally started this project, we intentionally aligned the CTE here (at the new high school) with the CTE heavy programs here  (the current high school), with the potential for that opportunity of those two corresponding with each other,” Pennington said.

The district wants the two to be completely separate, though, and Baker said the team has been looking at ways to keep the wood shop separate from what will become the middle school.

“There’s ways we can completely divide them so they won’t cross paths,” Pennington said. 

Board member Alan Park asked whether the new school would have gender-neutral bathrooms. 

Pennington said the school will have “private bathrooms”. 

“Depending on who looks at it, they can be called different things,” Pennington said. 

Some other schools in the state expressed interest in private bathrooms. 

“It’s actually a great opportunity to save square footage,” Pennington said. 

However, private bathrooms will not be the majority of the bathrooms in the school. Most bathrooms will be the typical group bathrooms. 

Board President Craig Pallister applauded the decisions. 

“I hate that it’s gotten political,” Pallister said. “Private is private and that is a need for our faculty and for our kids, and why are we here? To make them comfortable at school and learn.”

All in all, the new high school is 226,000 square feet. For comparison, the current high school has 183,00 square feet. The new school would accommodate a maximum enrollment of 1200 students.

This project is currently on target to hit the milestone dates. The architecture group has met with teachers twice already to go over the plans and is set to go through another round of teacher meetings in the next few weeks. The project is currently in the “Construction Documents” phase which started in February and is set to end on June 2.

After that, bid negotiations will take place until mid-July. Once bids have been accepted, construction is set to begin on July 15 and end on May 29, 2025.

Other items addressed at the board meeting: 

  • Wilson Elementary Vocal Teacher Gloria Blackwell was recognized as one of seven inductees for the Kansas Teacher’s Hall of Fame Class of 2023
  • The district received an Echo grant which will allow for education about the impact and dangers of vaping
  • The Associated General Contractor Award was presented to USD 489 for work on the Roosevelt Elementary School HVAC project.