Whitefish School Gains $1 Million for ‘World-Class’ Arts and Technology Wing

By Beacon Staff

The transformation of Whitefish High School received another remarkable boost last week.

A group of anonymous donors rallied together to spearhead the development of world-class performing arts and technology facilities and programs in the newly remodeled school. During last week’s Jazz Ensemble Choir performance at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center, the Whitefish Community Foundation presented a check for $1 million to the school district for a specific wing devoted to choir, orchestra, band, theater and computer programming, among other expanded curriculum.

Administrators and school trustees were on hand to accept the investment into another first-class facility emerging on the redeveloped campus.

“The vision for this facility and these students and teachers is, in fact, on a world-class scale and is representative of the educational excellence we stand for,” Superintendent Kate Orozco stated. “This investment in our children and our staff of teachers is humbling, and perhaps equally inspiring, it’s an investment in our community.”

Whitefish High School is undergoing an extensive reconstruction project that is on track to be completed in late August. Last fall crews put the finishing touches on the first phase of the project, including the gymnasium that was entirely remodeled with a new basketball court, expandable bleachers and state-of-the-art fitness center, named after Jim Campbell, which was made possible by a donation of more than $1 million from the Iron Horse Foundation.

Similar to the Iron Horse donation, this latest boost builds further momentum for the district’s, and community’s, ambitious vision.

Voters passed a bond in 2012 for $14 million in general obligation bonds to finance the rebuilding of Whitefish High. Among that approved amount, $558,000 was designated for a remodel of the existing music classrooms and the development of an unfinished multi-use section for future media arts and technology programs. But a working group and several anonymous supporters hoped to create greater opportunities for students, so they began raising separate funds that could create a state-of-the-art program and curriculum.

Combining the bond and the recent donation, just over $1.5 million is now set aside for the project, and the district is looking to raise another $1.3 million to complete all of the plan’s goals for music, media arts, technology and theater in the school. This updated plan fits within the district’ overall strategic vision for the reconstruction project, according to administrators.

“No other district in Montana will be able to offer their students and staff the opportunities in the performing arts, media arts and technology that Whitefish students will enjoy,” Principal Kerry Drown said, adding, “When you combine this quality of curriculum and facilities with the strong arts and technology culture in this community, Whitefish students will have unique opportunities to develop relevant and practical experience working in partnerships with the various arts and technology organizations in the Flathead Valley.”

The new wing, named the “D Wing,” will include a broad range of classrooms and resources that were shaped with input from teachers and engineers. The new facilities will include sound-isolated practice rooms; multi-purpose spaces for media arts and technology training; and a 3,302-square-foot multi-use performing space with a seating capacity of more than 200. This space will be available to band, orchestra and theater students and will allow for elementary, middle and high school productions.

Theater students will be able to design sound and lighting systems as well as create sets for drama productions. Students will also learn how to design and produce live theater from every aspect. Band and orchestra students will be able to learn specific niches in the performing arts, including the particulars of jazz ensembles, concert-sized productions and solo performances.

The media arts suite will include a technology lab and learning spaces for audio and video production, editing and broadcasting. It will allow students to explore how sound is produced, modeled and altered, and offer a high-tech green screen. A separate classroom on the second floor will be devoted to a robust computer science program that will be fully integrated with the media arts suite. The classroom will be specifically designed to be software-based, meaning it will be adaptable to future advancements in technology. All together, the new resources will establish a high-tech curriculum with classes on computer programming, digital design, GIS and natural resource data analysis and mapping. Students will also be able to be certified in Adobe qualifications and receive college credit in computer science.

The newly-envisioned project is estimated to cost $2.66 million for the construction of the facilities; $70,000 for construction of the second floor computer science classroom, $55,000 for architecture and engineering of the D Wing redesign and $100,000 for audio and video equipment. Taking away the $558,000 in bond money, the price tag for the entire vision landed at $2.33 million. The school board of trustees unanimously approved the redesign last week and construction of the new facilities is slated to begin April 1.

“We’re beside ourselves with the idea that we’re going to end up with an incredible school,” Drown said.

To follow the progress of the Whitefish High School Reconstruction Project, visit Facebook or https://sites.google.com/a/appswsd44.org/whs-site/

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