A $38 million bond issue presented on the April 2017 ballot passed for the Independence School District, paving the way for improvements to its three high schools, including Van Horn, which has the largest project among the three.

While the target date for a 42,000 square-foot addition to Van Horn was delayed by two weeks because of rain, district facilities director Salum Stutzer said the project should be complete Nov. 20. On that date, there will be a ribbon-cutting ahead of a boys varsity basketball game between Van Horn and William Chrisman.

It's on the east side of the high school, will include a new main gymnasium, a mezzanine area for wrestling practices, a hall of fame area, a physical therapy and athletic training space, classrooms for a metals class, two parking lots, which added 119 spaces west of the soccer field, and five commercial kitchens for culinary arts classes, which are a part of the district’s career academy.

The bond issue also allowed for old science and woodshop classrooms to be remodeled. In addition, sod has been laid down for a new soccer practice field between Truman Road and the school.

“We’re pretty much substantially complete,” Stutzer said. “Everything is about 95 percent complete. We had a little bit of rain so some of the exterior stuff like laying the sod and the running of the irrigation lines and finishing up the exterior panels, we couldn’t do some of that.

“On the inside, everything is pretty much done. We are just working on a punch list. There are just some odds and ends that we are trying to rectify before the November 20th ribbon cutting.”

The addition was needed largely due to a steady increase in enrollment. After the annexation of Van Horn to the Independence School District, the school opened with 450 students in 2008. Currently, the school is home to 1,000 students.

“The facilities are incredible, and we are thankful for our community for approving the bond issue,” Superintendent Dale Herl said. “The most important thing about this is it puts Van Horn on the same level as William Chrisman and Truman as far as facilities go.”

The new gym is the largest part of the project. The old gym will be used as a secondary one. The new one will have a large men’s and women’s restroom and a concession stand, which will be used for indoor and outdoor sporting events. There are also full boys and girls locker rooms.

“To our knowledge, it’s the only school in the metro area that size without two gyms,” Herl said before the bond issue passed.

Added Stutzer: “The concession stand is there when we are eventually able to host large track meets and football games.”

The classroom space itself will be around 900 square feet for the culinary and metal courses. Those classes will be moved from the Ennovation Center, which is in the building that also houses the district’s central office. All three high schools culinary and metal classes outgrew their current space.

The athletic training area takes up about 400 square feet, which not only be used for training, but will have an area for treating injuries.

“We’ll have cold and hot whirlpool stations,” Stutzer said. “We’ll have taping stations. There will eventually be equipment where we can do stim and ice treatments.

“We weren’t sure the project was going to be wrapped up in the time frame that it has. I believe the metals course won’t be fully populated until the spring semester.”

There also will be a hall of fame area located on the lower level. One wing will be dedicated to Van Horn graduate and former Major League Baseball pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, one will highlight current students and their achievements and the other wing will highlight the annexation before and after the Independence School District took it over. Near this area, office space has been added for activities director Chris Corrie and his assistant.

“Right now, they are on the third level, and that area is not really conducive for what they do,” Stutzer said of the activities directors. “The hall of fame area is really cool. We call it the Falcon Walk.”

“We wanted to keep the rich history of Van Horn in there.”