Walkerville school improvements taking shape

October 12, 2023

Walkerville school’s cafeteria is modeled after Applebee’s restaurants, offering a refreshed, modern feel.

Walkerville school improvements taking shape

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

Wildcat News is a presentation of Walkerville Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

WALKERVILLE — There has been a renaissance of sorts at Walkerville Public School with many recent improvements taking shape on the small campus.

One of the most noticeable changes is the refurbished cafeteria. “We started with re-energizing the cafeteria,” said Superintendent/Principal Joe Conkle.

Modeled after Applebee’s restaurants, the cafeteria no longer has a stale, boring look. It now has a refreshed, modern feel. 

Kindergarten students in a classroom inside the newly-renovated early elementary building.

“Once COVID started by doing the community outreach in feeding the community, federal funds that we got reimbursed allowed us to completely transform this,” said Conkle. “This was kind of the start of all the different improvements. This was the tip of the iceberg.”

Upgrades totaling approximately $200,000 happened in stages over a year and a half time span.

“We wanted the kids to be well behaved like when they go into a restaurant,” said Food Service Director Sheri Boes. “When they come into a cafeteria, they sometimes think it’s the gym.” Now, the students are much better behaved in the new environment. “This works perfectly,” said Boes. “It took all of us to do this,” she said of her food service team.

“We’re trying to step away from that sterile, multipurpose type room,” said Conkle. Teachers can utilize the space for instruction with the four big screen TVs in the cafeteria. 

A sinking fund millage of $500,000 triggered further improvements at Walkerville followed by voters’ passage of a $2.35 million bond in November of 2022.

“There was no consistency in temperatures in classrooms,” said Conkle. “One would be 85 degrees and another one 45 degrees.” Now, temperatures are more consistent with a new building management system. An outdated water heater was replaced by a new unit, and a water softener was added.

Previous Superintendent Tom Langdon authorized an audit by Johnson Controls, whose cost proposal was just over $2 million for “revamping everything.”

Brand new heating units were installed in the classrooms.

Funds were also used to replace a dirt portion of the parking lot with a paved surface.

“Additional bond funds that we had that were not expended on the unit vents went to a complete camera system upgrade,” said Conkle. “That ties into an updated card system to get into the building.”

Funding was also utilized to transform the middle school gym locker room into a weight room. New outside doors were installed in the gym, along with repurposed scoreboards purchased from the Delton Kellogg school district.

A new automated lighting system also helps reduce energy costs.

Brand new heating units in the classrooms are fully compatible to be hooked up to air conditioning.

A separate building that was most recently used for summer migrant programming, after-school Project Focus and storage was transformed into the new pre-K through second grade building. A cafeteria will eventually be implemented. 

The separate building was previously used for elementary instruction but it had not been utilized for that purpose for over 10 years.

 “We’re not all the way there yet. It opened up so many more opportunities like the virtual learning lab in the high school. “The physical space just wasn’t there, but now it is.”

The school leader is appreciative of the community support that allowed the improvements to happen at Walkerville.

“The community is so supportive — people are excited about seeing the improvements. We’re showing what a small rural school can do.”

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