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ConVal’s new gym is ‘worth the wait’

  • ConVal sophomore Hayley Greenyer runs to half court during the hoola hoop contest at Friday's spirit week pep rally.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal senior Ryan Leonard can finally make it to the gymnasium wing of the high school following Friday's grand opening of the $4 million project.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal junior Sean Stinehour leads the junior class in a cheer last Friday in the grand opening of the new gymnasium <br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Members of the ConVal faculty, Robin Kennedy, left, and Sherry Nixon compete against the senior class in tug of war on Friday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal student body got its first look at the new gymnasium during the spirit week assembly on Friday, April 12, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

The sign on Ryan Leonard’s wheelchair said it all.

“Don’t Stop Believin,’ Finally Accessible!” showed just how the ConVal senior felt about the newly renovated gymnasium wing at the high school.

Leonard, a senior who uses a wheelchair to get around the school, didn’t have a lot of interest going to that section of the school. It was hard for him to get to the facilities and they were not set up for wheelchair access. Before the renovation, the only ways to get to the gym area were to go down a set of stairs on a chair lift that took at least five minutes or to go outside. Leonard didn’t like waiting for the chair lift so instead would take the outside route along the sidewalk to the alternate entrance. But at times weather would make the trip problematic.

Leonard doesn’t have that problem anymore. The $4 million renovation alleviated those concerns for students with disabilities.

“I was really happy when I saw it because now I don’t have to go outside,” said Leonard.

The sign on Leonard’s wheelchair was part of a music video shot at ConVal on Friday — where Leonard was featured with Principal Brian Pickering and social studies teacher Greg O’Brien lip-syncing to the Journey song — kicking off the grand opening celebration of the renovated gymnasium area on the final day of spirit week.

“It’s just great to see it finished because I think it’s going to have a huge impact on the school,” said senior and Student Council President Caroline Trowbridge. “I knew they were going to do a good job. I was very confident in our administration that they’d do a good job.”

While “Don’t Stop Believin’” was the motto for the day, it has really been the motto for the whole year. Without the use of the area for first seven months of the school year, staff and students were forced to adjust.

“It’s been a long year,” said Athletic Director Jon Hall. “And it was a huge investment by the community, but now when people walk in and see it, it was worth the wait.”

And while at times it was difficult, the end result was a brand new area that will not only house the athletic department and all its needs, but it also brings the school into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act standards for accessibility.

“It was not about having a good sports program,” said Hall. “It was about coming into compliance and now we are.”

Pickering said that ConVal was cited 10 years ago by an accreditation committee and with another visit scheduled for 2015, there could have been repercussions for failing to meet the requirements.

“We went from being a school not in compliance at that end of the building to being 100 percent compliant in every way,” said Pickering.

It has been a little over one year since ConVal School District voters narrowly approved a $4 million bond to renovate the gymnasium area, build an addition and new entrance to the existing building and utilize a lot of space that went unused in the original design of the school.

“This is a true health and wellness center. It’s more than just a gym,” said Pickering. “Not only are our students going to benefit, but the community will as well.”

Over the past few weeks, some of the spring sports teams used the gym for indoor practices, while physical education classes got to try out the new area, but until Friday most of the student body had yet to see what construction crews had been doing since August.

“It was really exciting,” said junior Lily Grisafi. “I had already been in there for lacrosse, but it was really exciting for the kids that hadn’t seen it to be able to experience it as well.”

And what better way to show it off then with an all-school assembly.

“Of all the assemblies to have in here first thing, this was definitely the best because it’s the most celebratory,” said Trowbridge.

Now Leonard is able to take an access ramp to the remodeled second floor to the new elevator and take it down to the lower level of the gym wing.

“A part of our student body was unable to access our facilities and that was not OK,” said Trowbridge.

The new state of the art gym floor, along with $20,000 worth of work to the concrete slab, eliminates all the dead spots. And a fresh coat of paint gives it a brand new feel.

“The gym floor had a major issue with the concrete slab,” said Hall. “The floor had dead spots when it opened, but it wasn’t the floor, it was the slab.”

The boys and girls locker rooms, both located in the first floor and with direct access to the outside, have two different sized lockers for students in PE classes and athletes using them to store equipment.

“The locker rooms are so nice and the lockers actually hold our stuff,” said Grisafi. “A lot of them were broken and you could only fit like a pair of shoes and a bag. They weren’t very functional.”

The locker rooms also house ADA compliant shower stalls, while the bathrooms on the first floor also feature ADA accessible toilet stalls.

“I couldn’t get this thing into the bathroom,” said Leonard of his wheelchair.

There are two brand new classrooms on the second floor, using space that was considered dead space above the weight room. The second floor also houses the new athletic department offices.

“It’s like a whole new school. It’s amazing,” said junior Cass Yerkes.

The training room is now located between the locker rooms, while the weight room and small gym stayed in their original spots with a new cardio area installed between the two.

The trophy case will soon be housed in the new wing, along with the Athletic Hall of Fame, which will induct its third class in June.

There are still a few minor projects on the punch list, but nothing that will keep the new wing from being utilized for the last two months of the school year.

The renovation was first put on the ballot in 2010, but failed by 26 votes. After skipping a year, the bond was added to the ballot last March and was approved 2,409 to 1,590, just over the 60 percent required for it to pass.

“It’s not that we didn’t love ConVal, but when you went to other schools, especially the newer facilities, you realized how far behind we were,” said Pickering.

Next year will mark the first year of sports in the gym.

“It’s going to be so great to be the first team in the gym for the volleyball season,” said Yerkes of the fall. “It’s going to be really exciting.”

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