H-F High groundbreaking sets stage for arts additions

 
More than 100 students and residents gathered Thursday, Aug. 1, for a celebration and groundbreaking for the new fine arts additions at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
 
Students and faculty were especially excited for what’s to come: a black box theater built on the north side of the Mall Auditorium, and a new classroom wing built on the south side of the auditorium. When the H-F band, orchestra and choir relocate to the new wing, their vacated space will be remodeled for fine arts programs.
 
  Getting ready for the official
  groundbreaking for Homewood-
  Flossmoor High School's Fine
  Arts wing are (from left) board
  members Debbie Berman,
  Pam Jackson, Gerald Pauling,
  Nathan Legardy, Steve Anderson,
  H-F Principal Jerry Anderson,
  District 233 Superintendent
  Von Mansfield and board
  member Annette Bannon. 

  (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
 
District 233 school board President Steve Anderson said one of every three students at H-F is in an arts class or involved in arts extracurriculars.
 
“We’ve heard over and over throughout the years to keep the fine arts, expand the fine arts. Kids want more,” he said as he praised Homewood District 153 and Flossmoor District 161 for the preparation in the arts they give students.
 
It took the school board nearly three years to agree to spend $13.98 million from the reserve fund on the construction and to finalize plans for the band, orchestra, choir, theater and fine arts spaces. The broadcasting programs Viking TV and WHFH radio, will not move to the new wing since their space was recently remodeled.
 
“Our fine arts programs are what a lot of other schools want to have. We have these great programs because of the support of our administration and board,” said art teacher Jackie Wargo, who serves as Fine Arts Department chair. 
 
“Our kids work so incredibly hard. They take summer school and e-period (7:30 a.m. classes). They do everything that they can to squeeze in as many fine arts classes as they can (on their schedules),” Wargo said. “Bringing the spaces up to a modern facility, it’s really for the kids.”
 
Although there were no field markers to follow, the H-F Vikings marching band came together for the groundbreaking at the very site of their new band room. 
 
Band director Sarah Whitlock said for now “it’s a lot of schlepping and working in shifts” because the only space big enough to accommodate the band’s 200 members is the auditorium stage or the football field.  “It’ll be really nice when we can be in one space together. Then the opportunities are endless.”
 
Superintendent Von Mansfield recalled the earliest discussions 10 years ago. School board member Jeannie McInerney-Lubeck urged the board to establish a special curriculum for talented students in the arts. It took seven years and much discussion to bring the Music, Video and Performng Arts (MVP) Academy to the board for approval in January 2016.
 
Today the Fine Arts Department has its first MVP class. Students will have a special designation on their transcripts letting colleges know they were part of an arts-focused curriculum.
 
Junior Ben Turnquest participates in three arts programs. He’s in the H-F Viking Choir, a member of the broadcasting crew and studies drawing and painting through the fine arts classes. He recalled students being very disappointed by the board’s delays on approving the construction.
 
“Now that it’s actually happening it’s exciting, especially for the freshmen and sophomores because they’ll really get the benefit. Fine art students are looking forward to new facilities,” Turnquest said.
 
Ed Wright, architect with DLA Architects who designed the building additions, said crews for Cosgrove Construction got the project started around July 1. Thus far, workers are working on locating and improving utilities, storm and sanitary lines. The plan is to have that work done by the first day of school Aug. 15 so that the roads on the west side of the campus will be available for the buses.
 
“Once that’s done, then we’ll dive right into the foundations,” Wright said.
 
If crews can meet the timelines, the work on the two additions should be completed in October 2020.
 

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