More than 2,000 students and staff will walk through the doors of Central Middle School (CMS) Sept. 8 and be greeted by a completely renovated building with new classrooms, a new gym and a whole new grade level.
Sixth graders who would normally be the big kids on the block at their former elementary schools will now be the youngest in a school of 1,900 students.
Sixth grade students will be required to wear masks indoors as part of the district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy. The building’s design and students’ schedules will limit contact between them and 7th and 8th graders who will not be required to wear masks, CMS Principal Nate Swenson told the school board at its Aug. 23 meeting.
The school will be running a brand new schedule, including Flex and Modified Block. Student and their parents can learn more about them here.
Last minute construction continues
On a recent afternoon in August, Swenson showed no signs of nervousness as he escorted a visitor around the unfinished CMS hallways – the concrete hallway floors yet to be finished, tables and chairs stacked in every nook and cranny, and ceiling panels missing to allow for utility work.
During the tour, workers were busy putting finishing touches on classrooms, student spaces, a massive new cafeteria, media center, a new gymnasium, as well as redesigned parking lots and roadways surrounding the building.
But the principal was excited at the prospects of the project being closer to the end than they appeared.
“Flooring goes down quick,” he said. “You won’t believe it.”
Some of the students and their families have had a glimpse of the school. More than 1,000 people took advantage of building tours earlier in August.
Swenson was barely able to contain his excitement as he showed off podded learning areas in all three grade level areas, science tables on wheels to create seating modules, and a new media center.
PAC to be completed in early 2022
The new Performing Arts Center (PAC) features not only a 740-seat theater, but high-ceiling, state-of-the-art classrooms for instrumental and vocal music, including a humidity-controlled studio to help protect the hundreds of musical instruments to be stored there. Brand new soundproof booths for music practice and lessons line hallways behind the theater.
Completion of the PAC is expected in early 2022, according to Jason Mutzenberger, district executive director of business services. PAC staff will be trained during January and February and the space should be available for community users by March 1, he said.
In mid-August, a worker used a hydraulic lift to finish hooking up lights in the new, fully-branded gymnasium complete with Eden Prairie logos.
In late August, a small section of the new gym floor buckled due to a water leak, Mutzenberger said. Swelling of the floor boards was relieved temporarily to allow full use of the gym when school starts. New boards have been ordered to replace them.
Four locker rooms are fully outfitted with lockers and showers to allow for more physical education classes to be run simultaneously.
A new secure entrance has been constructed on the building’s east side, which continues to house the school’s main offices.
Walking in the east entrance, one of the more dramatic sights is the building-long hallway that serves as the school’s main street, off of which branch sections of the building that will host each grade level in its own learning pods.
Twenty-six new classrooms have been added to school, as well as five dedicated music rooms.
New classroom configurations also allow for more flexible scheduling for middle school students.
A total of 92,658 square feet of new space has been added to the school and 42,504 square feet more were remodeled. The building now totals 302,00 square feet of space.
Outside of the building is a brand new, nine-lane running track surrounding a synthetic turf multi-purpose field.
Mutzenberger shared more fun facts produced by Knutson Construction, which managed the project:
- If all the student lockers were stacked on top of each other, it would be over 3.5 times the height of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai.
- The new synthetic turf field installation consists of 199 tons of sand and 174 tons of fine rubber pellets – the equivalent of more than 28,000 car tires – installed on top of the turf to fill in the turf fibers and reduce the impact on young athletes.
- Wood flooring in the new gym is just over 6,300 square feet and 1 3⁄4” deep, for a total of 918.75 cubic feet of wood, the equivalent of more than 3.5 million #2 pencils.
- Stage rigging sets in the new theater will consist of approximately five miles of cable. That is equivalent to 94 laps around the new gym.
The $28.2 million CMS project is part of the district’s Designing Pathways initiative that included transitioning pre-school students to elementary schools, improving safety and security in all eight schools, and redesigning classrooms across the district that emphasizes skills employers and colleges demand.