Penns Valley

‘Nothing short of amazing’ changes greet returning local students

Rams excited for renovations and new gymnasium

Take a look at the renovations at Penns Valley High School and the new gymnasium.
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Take a look at the renovations at Penns Valley High School and the new gymnasium.

The students of Penns Valley Area High School can expect to take gym classes in a newer, fresher environment this school year. And that’s just the start of bigger things.

As part of a $15.5 million construction project, the Penns Valley Area School District invested in a new 1,200-seat gymnasium, along with renovations on the older gym as well.

Started in June 2017, the massive project lasted for 18 months and is now nearly completed. Only “minor cosmetic work” on the new gymnasium needs a few finishing touches, according to the district’s athletic and community relations director Nate Althouse. Both Althouse and district superintendent Brian Griffith said the area should be finished before the girls’ volleyball team plays their first home game, scheduled for Tuesday.

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The new 11,000-square-foot gymnasium at Penns Valley Area High School was almost ready for students and sports teams on Friday. The district’s $15.5 million construction project, which also includes new offices and a new band room, started in June 2017. Abby Drey

With work underway, students have been attending gym class in the older facility, which has been upgraded with a fresh coat of paint, newly installed windows and air conditioning. Not to be outdone, the new gymnasium will include a concession area, LED score table and a video board where students can watch live streams of sporting events.

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Althouse called the work done so far “tremendous,” praising the contractors for their speed and grace in the final few weeks. “They really gunned it, and when the kids walked in for the first day, it was nothing short of amazing,” he said.

To kick off the start of the new school year, administrators welcomed students back with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. After more than a year of seeing construction signs and hearing construction noises, students can now roam the building free from “academic detours,” according to Althouse.

Along with the new athletic facilities, various other locations of the high school have been revamped. If in need of either medical or educational assistance, students can visit the school nurses and guidance counselors in their new offices. For students with musical talents, Penns Valley also introduced a new band room, along with new dressing rooms for theater productions.

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The new entrance to Penns Valley Area High School on Friday, August 31, 2018. The new entry includes a secure vestibule for safety. Abby Drey

Griffith said the goal behind such an ambitious project was to keep up with peer districts, and to provide enough space for athletic activities in particular. “We could not hold all of the people who wanted to watch the events,” he said.

This led to scores of audience members standing, creating both tight squeezes and safety hazards. While Griffith said the new gymnasium may have more space than necessary, he still prefers to operate under the logic of “better safe than sorry.”

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Finishing touches were being put on the new Penns Valley Area High School gymnasium on Friday. Abby Drey

Along with his excitement for the new athletic facilities, Althouse is happy about the symbolic effect such an expensive vision has on students, saying he’s proud that the “kids know someone believes they’re worth investing in.” Griffith, jokingly speaking for the students, said they’re most grateful for the new air conditioners, as the latest heat wave continues.