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Thursday, March 22, 2018

DCHS projects meant to increase student pride, comfort (slideshow 4)

Story and photos by Jason Stuart

Students reported back to Dawson County High School last week, and as they entered the campus they would have noticed several new features in place as the result of projects the school district undertook this summer, all of which, according to Principal Wade Murphy, are meant to not only enhance the student experience but drive them to develop more pride in their school.

“It’s about creating that positive environment for students to be in,” Murphy said.

Using mostly funds from the building reserve levy voters approved for the high school district back in 2013, DCHS has made several very noticeable improvements throughout its halls over this summer.

One that should stand out easily to anyone driving by on Merrill Avenue is the new picnic area built in the central courtyard. Once just an empty space, the area now boasts a new concrete pad with brand new picnic tables installed on it and new benches and landscaping to give students a place to congregate for lunch outdoors.

“This is a situation where every day at lunch the kids come down and they sit in this hallway and just hang out,” Murphy said. “This is just something I thought was overdue.”

Murphy sees the courtyard improvement as something more than just a place for students to hang out and eat, however. It’s a place students will be able to congregate outdoors any time they are free as well as an outdoor teaching space that can be utilized by DCHS teachers, he said.

“If you’re a teacher, it’s a non-traditional classroom setting,” Murphy said.

He added he sees the new courtyard as an inviting space which can help boost student morale and school pride.

“I just think once again it’s an area for all students to be in that’s inviting and positive,” Murphy said. “I just think there’s a lot of positive things that go with a space like this that creates a positive vibe in your school.”

All the concrete work was paid for out of the building reserve levy. The new picnic tables and benches were purchased using money out of leftover senior class funds.

Inside the building, the DCHS gymnasium boasts a shiny new court surface that fans will quickly notice when they attend games, but behind the scenes, there are a couple of other major improvements to the gym facility.

Both the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms in the gym have had their floors completely re-tiled over the summer, which was also paid for out of the building reserve levy. Murphy said the impetus for replacing the old, cracked and worn-out tile in the locker rooms came from something he overheard one of his students saying after basketball practice last year.

“After practice last year, I heard one of the kids say in the locker room, ‘We’re from Glendive and we don’t fix anything,’” Murphy said. “There was just a very basic lack of pride in looking around and seeing things that were broken or in disrepair.”

That sparked Murphy to move to do something about it, not just to fix a need, but to try to enhance his students’ sense of pride in their school.

“And that comment really hit home to me, because if you don’t have a basic sense of pride in what you have, why would you work hard to represent it?” he said.

Though not yet complete, another project under way in the gym is a redesign and expansion of the weight room. The solid walls at both ends have been removed and replaced with overhead, garage-style doors made of steel and tempered glass. Murphy noted that has “opened up” the weight room to allow instructors to keep a better eye on what students are doing.

“Now, you can pop both ends up here and you can stand here if you’re an instructor ... and you can see all the way through,” he said. “The bottom line is our instructors can now monitor from wall-to-wall.”

Murphy also noted that the weight room redesign has added about 400 square feet of usable space, which could allow more students to participate in weightlifting at a single time.

“We might be able to allow more kids into weight classes now because we have more room,” he said.

Though two of the major projects undertaken this summer are in the gymnasium, Murphy was quick to point out that he is not just authorizing projects that are beneficial to student-athletes. 

Besides the courtyard project, he noted the school is also in the early stages of converting their former in-school suspension room on the second floor into a kind of student lounge with sofas, tables and a flat-screen TV to display school messages.

“I’m kind of envisioning it as a kind of study center,” Murphy said, adding he sees it as a place where students can congregate, relax and “feel comfortable.”

Besides the old suspension room on the second floor, Murphy said he is also planning to create a similar space in a corner of the school cafeteria. He said any new school built from the ground up would include such spaces for students to “reflect the philosophy of modern education.”

“If you look at schools that are built these days, every school is putting stuff like that in. They’ve all got those kind of areas for students,” Murphy said.

While he acknowledges that some people may criticize some of the projects the school has spent building reserve funds on, Murphy said all were projects that were needed in one way or another and offered a means to further cultivate a renewed sense of pride in their school amongst DCHS students.

“To me, my goal in getting this stuff done ... it wasn’t gratuitous by any stretch, it needed to be done,” he said. “But it allows our kids to look at what we have and know that what they have is as good as any kid in the state or region.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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