Josh Summers is concerned about the state of Wayne High School, not just as a Fort Wayne Community School (FWCS) administrator, but as a Wayne parent.
Both of his daughters also attend the school, so his interest in seeing it upgraded is more than just a professional one.
“We’re really retooling every single surface in the building,” proudly noted Summers, Coordinator of Capital Projects for FWCS. “The building is 50 years old, and the average life span of one of our buildings is typically about 40 years.
“This building has had no major renovations since it opened in 1972.”
Construction crews are laboring to improve nearly every area of the aging structure.
“Once this is done,” Summers said, “we’ll have new windows, doors, paneling, painting, lighting, ceilings. Everything, and I mean, everything, is being replaced,” he said.
The work also will ensure that every area of the building is serviced by air conditioning, a main goal of FWCS improvement plans for district schools.
“By the end of this year,” Summers said, “almost every classroom in our district will have AC.”
Summers notes that one positive aspect of the improvements is that because newer, more efficient HVAC systems are being installed, the school ends up spending less.
“Even when we’re adding AC and having all that extra power usage,” he said, “because the systems are more efficient, we end up saving money.”
The project also aims to realign several of the spaces used by New Tech High School, the magnet school located within Wayne.
The work also will see the school’s Media Center upgraded, and well as adding a new hall for the athletic program.
Opened in 1972, Wayne, located at 9100 Winchester Road, is one of the oldest buildings in the FWCS fleet of schools and also one of those most in need of improvement, according to Summers.
The upgrade project, started in earnest in March of 2022 and is expected to be fully complete by August of 2024. The work, which is expected to cost about $50 million, will be paid for in part by a bond issue approved by nearly 73% of local voters in the spring 2020.
Summers noted the impetus of the entire project was to figure out exactly how to better serve Wayne’s students and staff.
“We just asked: How can we realign everything so it will work better for them?”
According to Summers, one of the most crucial aspects of the project was to create a secure entrance, something FWCS has spent the last decade or so doing at all their new or renovated buildings.
“We’re re-configuring the front, so the main office is right next to the entrance. We’ve been doing this in all our renovations, so any visitors will have to check into the office before they come into the building.”
Secure entrances are something school districts around the country are moving toward, in an effort to eliminate unwanted visitors and possible intruders who may perpetuate school violence.
In addition, the project added a devoted dance room. Before, the dance classes had to share space with the wrestling program.
Also, the improvement is consolidating all the spaces used by the R.O.T.C. program, which before had been spread out in various areas around the building.
“This will allow more kids to see what they’re (the R.O.T.C.) doing, and let them show off their program to the whole student body, and ultimately have more pride in their program.”
Summers, who has one daughter who is a senior at the school and another in the junior class, said the failing state of the school and its need for improvement wasn’t necessarily a lack of planning when it was built five decades ago, but more due to the nature of change and the evolution of education since the school first opened in the 1970s.
“It wasn’t necessarily that they didn’t think about these things when it was built, it’s just that it’s different now, kind of like how people use their homes differently now than they did 50 years ago.”
He said the project is especially gratifying because it not only grants students and educators a better environment, but more pride in their school, as well.
“It’s exciting to see the building taking shape, and the kids and the teachers just taking pride in their school.
“It’s great seeing the excitement for the kids and the staff that are there.”