SHELBY — Students attending Shelby-Rising City Schools are now under one roof.
Over the past two years, a construction project at the school in Shelby added onto the building so middle school students could move there from Rising City.
Except for a bit of landscaping and the installation of gymnasium bleachers, the $15.7 million project is now complete.
On Thursday, the first day of school in Shelby, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held followed by an open house for the revamped building.
The 70,000 square feet of additional space includes an agriculture education center, fitness center open to the public, new competition gym with locker rooms, playground, football field and track complex and classrooms. Updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning in the old part of the building, a paved parking lot and upgraded ceilings and floors were also part of the project.
“I was really excited to see the wrestling room. I can’t wait to get in there this winter,” said sophomore Caron Rathje.
He said he likes the addition, especially what was done for the sports programs. The $1.5 million artificial turf football field and track were already in use last school year.
Junior Clayton Watts likes that the expanded building allows all grades to be in one location.
“It’s good to bring us together,” he said.
Before this year, the elementary and high schools were located at one site in Shelby and middle school students attended class in Rising City.
Both communities had buildings that needed upgrades.
“We had an aging building in Shelby and a building in Rising City that needed substantial work,” said Superintendent Chip Kay.
It would have cost millions of dollars to improve the roughly 100-year-old Rising City building.
Instead of making those upgrades, district voters approved a $14.9 million bond issue in 2015 to add onto the Shelby school so it could house middle schoolers.
The bond issue was supported by more than 70 percent of the voters. Additional funding for the project came from the district’s building fund.
Kay said support from both communities has been strong.
“We are fortunate we have great stakeholders in our district that support the future of our students,” he said.
Construction started in June 2015, marking the first major work on the building in decades.
Kay said having all the students in one location saves the district $250,000 a year in staffing and other expenses, including having one fewer bus route and one library.
More educational opportunities are also available to students, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), ag and advanced technology classes. The student services program also expanded.
The open house was attended by Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt, who called the addition an investment in the community and students, and Shelby native and former Olympian Curt Tomasevicz, who graduated from the school in 1999.
Teachers and other staff from Rising City shifted to the Shelby site, and students living in Rising City are bused the roughly 7 miles to Shelby.
The future of the Rising City building is still up in the air. Kay said he is hoping to have details on a potential sale next month.
“We are working with the village on a purchase agreement that would leave some of (the building) for use by the community,” he said.
If the sale goes through, part of the building would be closed off or demolished with the newer portion used by the public.
See more photos of the celebration at thebanner.press.com.