The Daily Memphian (March 4, 2020)
The ambitious $60 million renovation of Bartlett High School is heading into its final stretch with the recent opening of a new cafeteria, the upcoming debut of a new state-of-the-art auditorium and work progressing on a new library, gymnasium, field house and other features.
Since the first of the year, several new sections have opened up on the campus, including new science classrooms and labs, new music and art classrooms, and a new 21,675-square-foot cafeteria that opened last month.
“The students love it. They’re ecstatic about the quality of the expanded food menu, and they’re raving about the new taco bar and pizza oven,” BHS Principal Tim Jones said. “It’s just a great thing for Bartlett kids.”
Much of the renovation work over the past two years has been done while regular school activities continued as usual, creating a logistical challenge.
“Doing all of this with 2,000 kids on campus takes a team effort,” Bartlett City Schools (BCS) Superintendent Dr. David A. Stephens said. “We’ve done all this on 26.5 acres, which to me is amazing that we’ve been able to create all of this square footage and new spaces while we’re landlocked within this neighborhood.”
Jim Steinbrecher has worked at the school for the past 28 years and is enjoying seeing the school’s makeover take shape.
“It’s truly breathtaking,” said Steinbrecher, BHS film and speech teacher and one of its athletic directors. “We’re looking ahead to a surfaced track where the track team will be able to host events next year, and lacrosse is hosting this spring on the new turf.”
Just outside the cafeteria’s large wall of windows looking out onto the school’s new turf stadium, a plaza is being constructed that will provide outdoor seating and a new blue eight-lane running track by this summer.
A large new student commons hub will be equipped with a dozen 55-inch televisions to highlight daily lunch menus, events and announcements, and the area will connect with the cafeteria, auditorium and gymnasium.
Workers are putting the finishing touches on the auditorium now, including final trim work and installation of speakers and theatrical lighting. Seating capacity will be between 850 and 1,000 people, and the auditorium will feature new dressing rooms and backstage production areas as well as a double catwalk.
“This will double our auditorium capacity,” said Jones, who has been BHS principal for the past six years since the BCS district formed. “Before, I couldn’t get an entire class in the old auditorium. Now, I can bring in a whole senior or freshman class.”
The former auditorium, which was built in 1917, was torn down last year.
With performances of “Hairspray” beginning in April and the auditorium not quite finished, theater students are using the new cafeteria as practice space and the automotive training facility as a makeshift prop shop.
Adjacent to the auditorium, new dressing rooms, a TV production control room and classrooms should also be finished within the next couple of weeks.
The renovation includes the addition of wide hallways throughout the new buildings.
“Crowd control is a big deal. We want to move 2,000 kids every 45 minutes, and these wide hallways make it really easy to move them all the way across campus,” Jones said.
Jones added that the overhaul would get the number of entrances down to one or two, increasing security.
The old cafeteria is being gutted now to start retrofitting it for the library, and once it’s finished the old library will move down into that space. The former library space will then be retrofitted into a new STEM area.
Work is also underway on a new field house and 2,500-seat gym, complete with new locker rooms for boys and girls basketball, volleyball and football.
Last fall, a revamped Career Technical Education building opened with cosmetology and digital design areas, an auto shop and an advanced manufacturing shop that is also being used by Tennessee College of Applied Technology for night classes. TCAT is using the space until its new $17 million Bartlett facility is completed later this year at the corner of Appling Road and Brother Boulevard.
The renovation will also result in 150 to 200 more parking spaces once the project is completed.
Fleming Architects created the designs for the BHS transformation, with general contractors (and joint venture partners) FlintCo and Linkous Construction carrying out the work.
“Every new section that opens up is like a new present for the students and teachers,” Jones said. “Everything’s improving here – academics, the arts, theater, music – over past six years. The kids and teachers work really hard, so all of this is very well-deserved in this community.”
Stephens hopes the bulk of the work will be finished by the time school starts back next fall.
“We may still be finishing up the new library and STEM areas,” he said. “The wet weather has backed some of the project up a little bit, but hopefully we’ll have a good, dry summer and be able to get the rest of it knocked out.”