Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
KEOSAUQUA — Van Buren Community School District is about to embark on a major construction project that will add a second gymnasium at its high school in Keosauqua, and expand its weight room and wrestling room.
In April, the district’s school board accepted a bid to build an activity center for just under $6.1 million. It will include a gymnasium for junior varsity and junior high games, with a seating capacity up to 250 people.
Overlooking the new gym will be a mezzanine with turfed batting cages for baseball, softball and golf. It will have agility stations where students can train.
Van Buren School Superintendent Jeremy Hissem said the school board realized a few years ago it needed to make a change, and that’s when planning for this new activity center began.
“Right now, we have to share gym space, so our junior high goes to the Harmony center for games,” he said. “After this is built, they won’t have to do that.”
The additional gym will be useful for youth practices, too, but one of the main benefits will be that Van Buren can host a “quad,” which means hosting basketball games of both boys’ and girls’ varsity and junior varsity teams in the same town. Van Buren is one of only two schools in the conference that can’t do this, with New London being the other, and that school is also building a second gym.
Hissem said part of the projects involves turning the current wrestling room into a new weight room, which means the space allocated to weights will double in size. The new wrestling room will be bigger, too, by about 10 feet.
“This is great because we won’t have to build a separate room for the new weight room,” Hissem said.
The addition also calls for two classrooms, two restrooms and an office/meeting room.
The activity center will be built on the south side of the building just off the band room exit. Construction will begin this summer, when a fence will be erected around the area, closing off a portion of the parking lot.
“We will lose some parking in the short term, and hopefully in the long term we can make a plan to expand the parking lot close to its original size,” Hissem said.
Hissem said the project will be paid for through the school’s SAVE fund (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education), the 1 percent state sales tax fund, which means the district won’t have to raise property taxes.
The project is expected to finish by the start of classes in the 2023-2024 school year.
Hissem said he hopes the new activity center will help attract families to move to the district, and serve those that are already here.
“It gives people in Van Buren a place to be proud of and a space to use for generations to come,” he said.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org