As Work Continues on New Johnson Elementary, Tour of Multi-Million Building Provides View of Progress

By Jeff Toquinto on March 02, 2018 via

This time last year, Johnson Elementary School Principal Vicki Huffman would look out of her office window and see the grass and open lot in front of Wayne Jamison Field. Now, when she looks outside she sees the continually updated shell of the 65,000 square foot new Johnson Elementary School going up in the same location.
“It’s hard to believe the school has went up this fast,” said Huffman of the roughly $17 million building. “We started out last year at ground zero, basically, with just green grass and here we are nine months down the road and here we are with a two-story building in front of us with classrooms, offices and new gymnasium, a lunchroom and so much more.”
This morning, led by Thom Worlledge the project architect with McKinley & Associates, members of the Harrison County School Board, Bridgeport City Council, JES administration and others involved with the project were invited on a tour of the project.
For nearly two hours, Worlledge led those through the building that is beginning to take shape. Even better, after the tour was complete Assistant Principal Heather Holbert said Johnson teachers who have been manning the picket line got their first tour of the building as well.
Perhaps one of the last groups that will get to see everything with perhaps the most interest are the JES students. Huffman said they are thrilled with the new building and are taking part in other ways with the project.
“The kids are super excited because they can see this happen and we try to share as much as we can with them,” said Huffman. “We have different grade levels that do something different each month for the construction workers. Some have prepared hot chocolate and others have given them candy bars and we’ve done things from the administrative offices as well to let them know we appreciate the hard work.”
That hard work has produced a building where a lot is closer to being completed than may be apparent. Painting is taking place, dry wall is up and going up, plumbing is taking place, HVAC is installed and much more.
Worlledge explained many of the key features. He said the school not only has three levels of lockdown available, but has poured concrete walls. The walls of the classrooms are also color coded to help students in locating where they need to be.
As for the heating and cooling, it runs through hallways. The reason for that, said Worlledge, is that it helps reduce the noise and also provides efficiency.
The gymnasium, without anything inside, looks particularly huge. Even with it having items, it would be an upgrade as more than one person mentioned JES students have been having gym class in their current hallways by jumping rope. That will soon change as the gym will have a main court and two side courts on each side. The floor will look like wood, but will be a softer material, Worlledge said, which will allow for activities to take place inside the gymnasium without ruining the gym floor.
Also, the building has a signature piece that is somewhat visible now from Johnson Avenue. The wooden arch that goes between two sections of building on the second floor is a wooden replica paying homage to covered bridges in West Virginia as well as the Simpson Creek covered bridge that sits just outside the city limits.
It’s just one of many unique design features. One of the most unique is why the building is situated the way it is situated.
“There will be five hours of natural light in every single classroom every single day,” said Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin. “If you don’t have (power) you’re still going to have light in the building.”
The “zig-zag” pattern of the building was done on purpose. Officials say it is oriented properly to the daylight.
Manchin and Worlledge said the building is on schedule for an August, 2018 opening. Several sang the praises of City Construction – the contractor – for keeping a fast time line.
“It’s going very well. Things are running smoothly and we’re on schedule. Right now, we’re working on getting things fully enclosed with the remaining windows,” Worlledge said. “ … We’ve actually had quicker time lines than this, but this is a good-sized school and a complicated site, which required a lot of coordinating to make things happen.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows JES Assistant Principal Heather Holbert, left, and Principal Vicki Huffman on the second floor roof that overlooks the BHS baseball complex. In the second photo, Thom Worlledge, left, and City Council member Dustin Vincent are shown by the replica covered bridge area that connects the second and third grade area with the fourth and fifth grade section on the second floor of the building. At the bottom, JES Teachers are shown with Dr. Manchin and their administrators as they get to get their first look at the inside of the building they will be calling home during the 2018-19 school year.

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