Carson Middle School expansion proceeds as students return |

Carson Middle School expansion proceeds as students return

Students at Carson Middle School may find they learn nearly as much about construction as history and math this year.

While they attend classes, contractors all around them will push forward with the $12 million remodel and expansion of the 50-year-old school. And among the first things they’ll learn when classes begin Monday is how to be safe in a construction zone.

“The first few days of school, teachers are going to walk them through all the safe pathways,” said Principal Sam Santillo. “They have to know how to get from the classroom to the field. They have to know how to get from the field to the lunchroom.”

Some familiar routes through the school will be closed off by chain link fence while under construction. Some doors will no longer exist as the floor plan changes.

Returning students will also have to learn the new locations of such things as the cafeteria.

And, since the work won’t be done until August 2008, everyone on campus will have a front-row seat as new classrooms, offices, the cafeteria and other facilities are built and remodeled.

With nearly 1,200 students in grades six through eight expected this year, the school on West King Street is one of Nevada’s biggest middle schools outside Clark County.

Director of Operations Mike Mitchell said the school was built in 1954 as the city’s high school and designed for about half the number of students it now has. He said it has grown and expanded over the years in a haphazard fashion. The result: Three main buildings and 19 portables, a total of 22 separate structures.

“This bond project is going to take all that disjointedness and make it into one cohesive building,” Mitchell said.

In the process, it will add about 40,000 square feet of classroom and office space, bringing total square footage to just over 160,000 and completely replacing those portables.

And no longer will students have to go outside in bad weather to get from class to class. The construction will instead create an interior atrium with a 26-foot ceiling and clerestory windows, which Mitchell compared to Senator Square at Carson High, “only more free flowing.”

In the process, Mitchell said, the changes will greatly improve security.

“We’ll have more control over parents and other adults on campus,” he said, noting that in the existing school, adults can wander onto the campus without checking in with the front office.

After the project is completed, administration and the front offices will be the entry point for visitors.

The new cafeteria will not only be double the size but with a 20-foot ceiling instead of 8 1/2 feet in the existing cafeteria.

“You get 600 kids in here and it’s chaos,” he said standing in the old cafeteria.

While the new one is built, one end of the gym is being converted to a temporary cafeteria.

Students who take band classes also get a much higher ceiling. In the existing band room, no student taller than five feet can stand on the top tier of the stand.

Mitchell said the elimination of the portables will bring “huge” utility savings for the district. Enclosing everything into a single building will help too since doors won’t be opening and closing hundreds of times each day, letting heat out during the winter.

“This will turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” said Mitchell. “There’s no downside other than this next year of chaos.”

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.