By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
It’s taken years of brainstorming and meetings, but the new design for Cullman High School is complete. Incorporating a new two-story main building with everything from a cutting-edge media center to a student coffee bar in the lobby, officials say the renovation will be a drastic redesign for the 50-year-old campus.
“It will be beautiful, functional and timely,” Cullman City schools Superintendent Dr. Jan Harris said. “The students need a new facility and we’re thankful to have the opportunity to provide it.”
The approximately $14.5 million project is expected to take less than two years to complete. The plans will be formally presented and likely approved at a Monday night meeting, then bid out within the next month. The project will be funded by additional revenue from a new, countywide half-cent sales tax.
A new, two-story main academic building will replace the current library, administration and guidance offices. A large-scale renovation of the auditorium is also planned, along with a new lobby area to connect the auditorium to the cafeteria. New facilities will be wired for high-speed and wireless Internet capabilities, while older buildings will be retrofitted.
The project is split into two phases in an effort to minimize disruptions during the school year. Demolition will be done in phases, so space can be used on one side of campus while construction is going on elsewhere. Despite the staggered schedule, officials still expect to need some portable office and classroom units during the construction process.
Architect Rodney Steger, with Fuqua & Partners, said his team is trying to streamline every detail of the construction process before work begins.
“We just need it to go well and to have the right plan in place,” he said. “Because once the fuse is lit, it’s lit.”
The first phase of demolition will remove the administration building, guidance building, media center and J Building. In their place the new two-story, 68,000-square-foot academic building will be built. The academic building will include two floors of classrooms, a media center, cafe, commons, administration space and a multipurpose facility. The bottom level classrooms will also be reinforced to meet storm shelter standards, meaning they can be used as shelter in the event of a tornado or powerful storm.
The J Building will be replaced with a two-story, 22,000-square-foot fine arts building. A new auditorium lobby will be built and the main auditorium renovation will also be done at this time. The A and B buildings will remain in use until phase I construction is complete.
Phase II will raze the A and B classroom buildings for a new, 100-space parking lot. The cafeteria and gymnasium will also receive some improvements. Once complete, Fourth Avenue NE will become the official “face” of the school with a new main entrance.
School board member Steve Sides admitted it will be an intense process to complete, but said it would be more than worth it in the end.
“There may be a lot of hair pulling between now and then,” he joked. “But, it’s absolutely needed.”
Sides said the new layout will be a big change from the old design, but noted it will give administrators the ability to lock down the majority of the campus in the event of a school shooting or other emergency. Combined with the storm-safe areas in the academic building, he noted the new campus should be much safer than the old facilities.
“That’s something on everyone’s mind right now, and now we’ll have the ability to actually tighten up the campus and lock it down,” he said.
Cullman Mayor Max Townson said he believes the project will bring a new, exciting look to one of downtown’s oldest landmarks.
“It absolutely looks like a brand new, $50 million school — but thankfully it doesn’t cost that much,” he said. “More than anything, I’m glad they’ll remain on site, because you have all the amenities already there. It’s going to bring the old style into the new style.”
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.