On Aug. 20, Mason seventh and eighth graders will be greeted by a school that looks and feels brand-new. The Mason Middle School renovation nearly 20 years in the marking is full of big changes.
The welcoming front entrance now truly looks like an entrance, complete with modern safety features. Plus the big, open Dining Commons and serving area eliminates the need for dreaded 9:45 a.m. lunches. Even small changes, like purposeful flooring and white paint, mixed with blue, green, purple, orange and yellow (to designate each wing of the building) makes everything feel fresh.
MMS Principal Lauren Gentene can’t wait to have all her students and staff under one (new) roof. She will also have more room to zoom around the hallways using her preferred mode of transportation, a scooter. New lockers freed up more space for movement and student collaboration. Lauren is also thrilled that teachers had so much input into the project.
“They know what they need out of the space better than any of us,” Lauren says. “Staff has been able to tour and provide input at multiple points in the project.”
Teachers participated in everything from design to placement of sinks in science rooms and selection of furniture.
MMS was built in 1959, was added on to in 1967, 1980, 1987 and 1997 and underwent a total renovation during the 2018-2019 school year. This renovation provides a safer, more learner-centered, attractive and functional school for the district’s seventh and eighth graders.
In addition to the new entry and Dining Commons, there are STEAM labs and Extended Learning Areas within the hallways. Other MMS updates include new finishes on the flooring, walls and ceilings, a total replacement of the HVAC system and central plant, new lighting and a new roof.
The Journey to the New MMS
In 2001, the Mason Board of Education joined the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s Expedited Local Partnership Program, which was created from state tobacco settlement funds. That decision ensured that Mason’s students would benefit from safe, innovative and high-quality learning environments.
In 2013, Mason became eligible to receive funding from OFCC for future facility projects because of the construction and renovation projects the district completed for Mason High School, Mason Early Childhood Center and Mason Intermediate. The district received $34 million, or roughly 80% of the funding for these projects, from the OFCC, offsetting the cost for needed facility improvements.
All of this is part of the long-range Master Facilities Plan, which seeks to create an efficient use of school facilities to produce the most benefit for Mason learners.
“As we complete this important stage of our Master Facilities Plan, we thank all of the community members and leaders who helped us get to this point,” says Jonathan Cooper, superintendent. “Moving forward, we’re challenging ourselves to ReIMAGINE learning and find ways we can ensure that big schools feel small so that each student feels valued and knows they matter.”
The ribbon cutting celebration for the renovated building will occur on Sept. 18.
Inside the MMS Renovations
The architecture firm tasked with the renovation, Mason-based VSWC Architects, has a unique history with MMS. Founder Al Voorhis was the original architect on the building, which started out as the district’s high school in 1967. His son, Jim Voorhis, is leading the project now. Both are Mason graduates. “The current remodeling project has been extra special as we dug out all the old hand-done drawings of the original building, which my dad produced,” Jim says.
Brand-new modular furniture will be found throughout the building, even in hallways to promote breakout sessions and collaboration. All furniture is paid for with state funds, and old furniture will be repurposed or sold at auction.
There are many state-of-the-art features like energy-efficient LED lighting that automatically turns on and off and adjusts its brightness to natural light. There are also cutting-edge noise reduction baffles in the music rooms.
The updated Media Center will have coding and robotics labs, a “maker space” for creative exploration and a green room with podcasting capabilities for student productions. There will also be two fully furnished Mac labs for design classes.
Renovations created more usable space that did not exist before. There are two newly created labs, as well as an extra hallway for easier, less disruptive access for band, choir and theater students.
The courtyard off the Dining Commons was repaved and will give students an opportunity to get some fresh air during the day. Plus, a classroom is anywhere you want it to be with loose seating and marker boards in larger hallways. In all, there are 17 tons of new marker boards in the building.