<pc>Photo by David Mongillo/The Connection
<cl>Madison principal Mark Merrell
<sh>Construction is estimated to be finished by early 2004.
<bt>James Madison High School principal Mark Merrell has a message for the students, faculty, staff members and parents who are frustrated by the school’s ongoing renovation:
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel."
Construction began in 1998 and, by early 2004, the project should be finished. During the coming school year, by the first week in December, workers should be finished with phase two of the project. This phase includes a newly constructed addition, at the front of the building.
"The front exterior of the building is entirely different," Merrell said. "It’s been moved out."
After phase two is done, phase three will begin, to completely renovate all the existing class space.
"There will be new ceilings, new doors, windows, air conditioning, floors," Merrell said. "In some of these rooms, the doors are part of the same building from 1959."
A new library has been built at the school. A new television studio will be built, and students will produce a live, in-school television show. There will also be new electrical wiring, to create a network throughout the building and add extra outlets to each classroom.
AS SOME of the newly refurbished parts of the school opened up last year, Merrell said, students seemed to change their attitudes, taking more pride in the building.
"As the physical building began to change, as we began to open things up," Merrell said. "People just became more upbeat, more positive."
The principal said he wants to build on that positive attitude over the course of the new school year.
The school will also introduce a senior-freshman mentoring program this coming year. After identifying freshmen who would benefit from a mentoring partner, those freshmen will be matched with seniors involved in the program. The program will not only benefit the incoming freshmen, Merrell said, but it will also give seniors a chance to develop leadership skills.
The student government has also decided to work toward keeping the cafeteria clean this year.
"Whenever you put 400 or 500 people in one area," Merrell said. "There’s always going to be an issue."
There will be a new assistant principal at the high school, Mike Yohe, who was previously an assistant principal at South Lakes High School.
The school will have around 1650 students enrolled, with 134 teachers. Eighteen to 20 of those teachers will be new to Madison. There are 17 classroom trailers on school grounds.
Merrell said the school depends on the support it receives from businesses and community members throughout town.
"Out of all the high schools in the county, there are very few that have the sense of place we have here," Merrell said. "When you say Madison High School, you associate the school with Vienna."