Southwest completes $1.3 million in renovations
Superintendent: ‘It’s better than I ever expected’
While every school district in Barry County strives for excellence and takes pride in their school, the Southwest school district couldn’t be more proud than it is right now.
That’s because renovations amounting to over $1 million dollars have been completed, bringing a comprehensive project to make much-needed repairs and updates to the district full circle.
In April, the district pursued a $1.3 million bond issue for the renovations, prompted by superintendent Tosha Tilford, who, along with the board, hired the CTS Group to conduct a district-wide evaluation to ensure all facilities were up-to-par for students, staff and the community. Some of the facilities dated back to the 1960s.
The renovations, which commenced at the end of the 2016-2017 school year and included structural repairs, new elementary bathrooms and plumbing, an upgrade to two existing restrooms, new HVAC systems in the elementary and middTilford said she recalled how, one year ago, she wondered how she was going to complete such a massive project.
“It’s absolutely amazing what one year has done,” she said, after completing a final walk through with contractors on Oct. 16. “I thought it would take most of the school year [to complete the repairs], so it shocked me when they said they would try to get it all done over the summer. We’ve already taken over the renovated restrooms and the middle school gym, and everything is getting turned over to us on Monday.”
Tilford said that, overall, she couldn’t be more pleased with how the renovations came out.
“There were minor things, for instance the gym floor took longer to get in, but the work they did in the few months they had was amazing,” she said. “The west wall had structural damage, and when CTS began investigating further, we ended up finding out that it was just blocks sitting on top of blocks. So they took the top two rows out and put in a beam at the top, then chiseled out several sections of the concrete blocks and poured the concrete down to bond and stabilize the wall.”
Tuck pointing was also completed to avoid future settling, and new, spray foam insulation installed, which has a much higher “E” rating.
Tilford is especially proud of updates to the middle school gym, which locals affectionately call, “The Pit.” The renovations changed its entire look from a dark, aged gymnasium to a bright, modernized and comfortable one.
“It’s just stunning,” she said. “It’s better than I ever expected, and the kids are so proud of it, even the high school kids. It’s kind of brought that historical pride back. I don’t think we ever lost it, but it’s amazing how much it’s been rejuvenated. They sprayed the ceiling white, and all of the beams [before, they were a dark red color], so the entire interior was repainted, and also had LED lighting put in. Then we had a new hardwood floor placed in it.”
Tilford, who attended Southwest schools from kindergarten through graduation, and played in the gym as a student, has some serious history at the school.
“I remember my parents trying to get a bond issue passed, and being in the gym when it was renovated [back then],” she said. “My dad was a coach when the gym opened. So, it’s awesome because it’s renovated and back to new again. When I first came back to the district [as high school principal], it bothered me because it had gotten run down. So it’s a really neat feeling.
“I’m very proud of it. I’m not the only alumni in the district, and anyone who hasn’t been in it is going to think that it looks really nice.”
In addition to its new visual appeal, the gym will be a lot more comfortable, too, now that air conditioning has been installed.
“Back when I played in the gym in the 1980s, we didn’t have air conditioning,” Tilford said. “We didn’t think much of it because it was always hot. But now, everyone has AC, so it’s not as easy to have a facility that doesn’t have that.”
To celebrate the reopening and reclaiming of the new gym, which had been closed for nearly two months for repairs, Tilford held “Pack the Pit” night Oct. 6, extending free admission to a home game to invite parents and the community to see the gym.
“We were playing Exeter and it was our first home game that we had possession of the gym again,” Tilford said. “We had free admission because we wanted to show off the facilities, but also wanted to show the community how much we appreciate them.”
The Pit was packed indeed, Tilford said.
“It was awesome,” she said. “We got a lot of positive feedback. I appreciate our community so much. They had a choice of voting these things in, and these were big-time things. It was a token to show how much we appreciated them.”