JEROME — Bill Palaber graduated from Jerome High School nearly 60 years ago, but he still keeps up with his alma mater.
On Wednesday night, he toured a new wing at Jerome High.
“I’ve been curious about what it would look like in here,” Palaber said. A lot of time and money went into improvement projects, he added. The 1958 Jerome High alumnus didn’t go to school in this building, which opened about two decades after he graduated.
It’s much larger than the Jerome High he attended. “Well, the gym is almost as big as the (old) school,” he said.
Palaber and his wife, Maxine, also a 1958 grad, were among more than 100 people who attended a dedication ceremony and open house Wednesday night for a new wing at the high school.
Money for the upgrades came from a nearly $24 million bond voters approved in March 2014. The bulk of the bond money, $18.46 million, was spent at Jerome High.
It helped modernize and expand the 1970s-era campus as enrollment in the Jerome School District continues to grow.
“We’re meeting the needs and growth of the community,” Superintendent Dale Layne told the crowd during a ceremony outside the new wing.
Attendees included community members, students, parents, alumni, a few state legislators and city officials. Representatives were also in attendance from Starr Corp. and LKV Architects, who worked on the project.
Layne and school board members stood underneath new letters on the side of the building: “Home of the Tigers” and a piece of Tiger artwork, a nod to the school’s mascot.
Layne thanked attendees for their support of the bond, which passed with about a 70 percent approval rate.
“It just indicates a support in our community for education,” he said.
Jerome High principal Nathan Tracy told visitors that groups of Jerome High students would lead tours and answer questions.
“This is an amazing facility and I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised when you go in,” he said.
The first phase of renovations started about a year ago.
Projects included creating a second gymnasium, new cafeteria, new science, art and drama classrooms, a new administrative office, renovating the auditorium, adding new classrooms and revamping parking lots.
Layne told the crowd he gets a lot of questions about whether projects are on schedule and on budget. “Yes, we are,” he said.
The remainder of the projects at Jerome High — including the auditorium remodel and new administrative office — are slated for completion by the end of December.
Currently, the school’s administrative office is on the building’s second floor, making it difficult to keep track of visitors coming in. To address security concerns, the existing cafeteria on the first floor is being converted into an administrative office.
Once school officials move into the new administrative office, work will begin to remodel the old office into classrooms.
When all the work is done, Jerome High will have 16 more classrooms.
The bond also paid for work at four other Jerome campuses, including new four classrooms at Summit Elementary School; eight new classrooms at Jerome Middle School; a revamped parking area, bus lanes, a drop-off and pick-up area, fire sprinkler system upgrades and new roof at Horizon Elementary School; and seven new classrooms at Jefferson Elementary School.
During Wednesday night’s event, Megan Williams with the school district’s education foundation unveiled a piece of Tiger artwork on the outside of the new wing.
She said the foundation wanted a visual way to demonstrate the community’s support for the school district.
Freshmen Madison Deadmond, 14, and Sydney Ohlensehlen, 14, led two couples, Jerome High alumni, on a tour after the ceremony.
Sydney held open the doors to the new gymnasium. It can seat up to 2,100 people, she said.
The girls answered questions from the adults, such as when the remaining projects will be completed and how many students attend Jerome High.
As a first-year high schooler, Sydney is learning to navigate the larger building. And older students are doing the same thing.
She went over her class schedule multiple times until she was confident in finding her classes.
As the tour wrapped up, Palaber told Madison and Sydney: “You just about covered the whole program.”
Sydney told the group she’s excited for all of the projects to be completed. “We’re all looking forward to December.”