Chris Woods News
This Article originally appeared in the Daily Memphian.
The largest fine arts expansion project in the history of Arlington Community Schools (ACS) is underway as the district ceremoniously began construction of the $8.5 million Fine Arts wing at its high school.
Attendees at the Thursday, April 13 event included district leaders, administrators and AHS fine arts teachers, along with project planner Fleming Architects and general contractor Chris Woods Construction Company.
“This is going to give us a lot more tools to enhance all of our activities,” AHS Band Director Tim Simpson said. “Our band and orchestra programs are both some of the largest in all of West Tennessee, so having that extra room will be really, really nice.”
For music students, a new, larger band room measuring 6,200 square feet (nearly triple the size of the current space) will include expanded storage for the many instruments. There also will be a separate dedicated orchestra room.
“The band program has been a really strong program at the high school since the school opened,” Simpson said. “We’ve had a lot of success, and this greatly expands our capacity and our room. Right now, we can’t get the whole band in the room at the same time, so having a larger room for us to rehearse together will be fabulous.”
Color guard and indoor percussion groups will also be able to rehearse in the new band room, with higher ceilings more conducive to color guard activities. In the past, they have had to find space to practice in a gym or the cafeteria.
Art students and staff will enjoy renovated classrooms, expanded art storage, new equipment for screen printing and a new kiln room, while theater students and staff will get a refreshed auditorium with a new stage area, new dressing rooms and an expanded scene shop.
The existing band room will become the dedicated orchestra room with storage, and there will be four practice rooms for use by the band, orchestra and choir programs.
The project will also furnish the auditorium with new and improved equipment, including a theatre projection system, acoustical sound shells and new choral risers.
Other features throughout the new wing will include space for an art gallery at the new entrance and a teachers’ lounge.
ACS Board Chairman Dale Viox says this is one of the projects he has been most excited about since the district formed in 2014.
“I think it’s been a long time coming, and for the caliber of the programs we have, the space has been woefully inadequate,” he said. “I think myself and the board are just happy now to give these excellent programs a proper place.”
About $1.1 million for the project will come from the district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds received as a result of the COVID pandemic.
ACS Superintendent Jeff Mayo thinks the project once completed will take the school’s already successful programs to the next level.
“Arlington High is known throughout the region and state for its unbelievably talented fine arts programs, so it’s appropriate for the fine arts wing to reflect the level of talent and creativity that is being cultivated by our teachers and students,” he said in a statement prepared by the district. “This renovation will give our students and teachers room to grow their programs and more opportunities to showcase their talents.”
As part of the project, two new security vestibules will be installed near the front office and attendance office. The high school is the only one of the district’s four schools currently without security vestibules at its front offices. The new vestibules will close off general access by requiring visitors to check in before gaining access to the rest of the building.
“We constantly evaluate the safety of our buildings, and this has been one thing missing from the high school,” Mayo said. “The vestibules will bring AHS in line with our other schools by funneling guests through the main offices. It’s yet another way we can help protect our students, staff and school community.”
Construction on the wing is expected to be complete by next spring.