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Addition at HMS gets green light

This map shows the proposed additions to the Hastings Middle School building. They are located on the northwest side of the current building.

Following Hastings City Council approval of the site plan Monday night, the addition to the Hastings Middle School will begin soon.

The eight-classroom addition will be built on the northwest side of the building - four classrooms on each floor. For the most part, the addition will not be visible from the roadway.

The addition is the part of the conversion of the Middle School from a grade six to grade eight middle school to a grade five to a grade eight middle school. Voters approved the conversion last fall as part of the $19.2 million referendum vote. The estimated cost of the addition is $4 million.

With the planned move being for about 360 fifth grade students, it means another two classrooms from both floors will also be part of the fifth grade area, being taken from existing adjacent rooms on both the first and second floor of the building.

While the area will be the unit for the fifth grade, it does not mean the students will be restricted to that area of the building. There is the theater area, the physical education area, among others.

As the architects work on the design for the building, a number of task forces have been meeting since January to study academic and other programs, affected domain (student body), physical activities within the building. Task force members include teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, and members of the communities. There have made site visits to other schools that have grades five to eight middle schools.

"Nothing is wrong with the existing fifth grade, or in the sixth grade," stressed Hastings Middle School Principal Mark Zuzek. "We are not going to lose sight of what we have now, but we do not want the fifth grade to be just an appendage to the school."

Each area of the building is being looked at, studied, and consensus reached by task force members. Some areas of studies have yet to be resolved, Zuzek said, with more meetings planned during the summer and fall.

The task force will continue to hold meetings; information about them and the transition process will be provided on the Middle School's web site -; then go to the middle school link.

With the moving of the fifth grade into the Middle schools, that opens up space at Pinecrest, Kennedy and McAuliffe Elementary Schools for kindergarten students, currently housed at the Tilden site. In the fall of 2011 Tilden is expected to become the home for Hastings Community Education programs.