The exterior of the under-construction 9,980-square-foot Patrick Ward Memorial Gym, named in memory of long-time, beloved Holtville Middle School physical education teacher Patrick Ward, is projected to be done in May, according to Holtville Unified School District officials. | COURTESY PHOTO

Holtville Middle School Gym Construction Ongoing

HOLTVILLE — Though construction for the Holtville Middle School gymnasium has been delayed by COVID-19, a school district official expressed hope that its pending completion will coincide with the anticipated lifting of pandemic-related restrictions against indoor gatherings.

The $4 million Measure G project was previously expected to have been completed by the end of February but is now expected to conclude by late May, said John-Paul Wells, Holtville Unified School District assistant superintendent.

“We’re hoping to get that done in time to make it available in the summer for events,” Wells said during a phone interview.

When completed, the 9,980-square-foot Patrick Ward Memorial Gym, named in memory of long-time, beloved Holtville Middle School physical education teacher Patrick Ward, will provide a new venue for basketball and volleyball, retractable seating, two scoreboards, wireless internet connectivity, restroom facilities, and an equipment storage room.  

The unfinished interior east wall of the 9,980-square-foot Patrick Ward Memorial Gym at Holtville Middle School is shown in a Feb. 16 photo. The gym is expected to be finished by May. | COURTESY PHOTO

Additionally, Holtville Unified is looking to install a new projector and retractable screen that can be used for school assembly presentations and daily PE lessons. To help fund the purchase of the projector and screen, the district is seeking business and community sponsorships by selling scoreboard panels, Wells said.

The new middle school gymnasium/multipurpose room is the first of several projects that are planned with funds generated by Measure G, the November 2018 general obligation bond measure that authorized the district to issue a total of $10 million in bonds.

The passage of Measure G resulted in an annual property tax increase of $40 per $100,000 of assessed property value. What that means is, for example, for a home valued at $200,000, the measure adds $80 a year to the tax bill.

The district’s first issuance of $4 million in bonds took place in May 2019.

As part of the current $4 million project, lights are also being installed for a field that is located south of the new gymnasium and which will benefit high school sport teams and local youth sport leagues.

“We were able to fit it in our budget to get one set of field lights out there,” Wells said. “I know it’s something that the community has really wanted to get for years.”

The unfinished interior southwest corner of the wall of the 9,980-square-foot Patrick Ward Memorial Gym at Holtville Middle School is shown in a Feb. 16 photo. The gym is expected to be finished by May. | COURTESY PHOTO

The current overall project broke ground in February 2020 and is especially welcome considering that the city of Holtville has a relatively limited number of facilities that can accommodate and further help promote school-sponsored youth sports and competitive club activities.

“I think it’s going to be a major improvement, not just for the middle school, but for the community,” Wells said. “There’s always a lot of requests for our high school gym, but it’s really hard to accommodate because of school activities there.”

The new building is being constructed on the eastern side of the campus, replacing old asphalt tennis and basketball courts that were no longer in use. No locker room will be included, since the middle school already has an existing locker facility that students will continue to use, Wells said.

The primary contractor is Los Altos-based ESR Construction, who is working with subcontractor, Modus Systems of Scotts Valley, California.

Another $4 million in Measure G funds are also slated to go toward a similar cafeteria/multipurpose room project at Holtville High.

“I’m kind of trying to get the middle school squared away and get that put to bed before we tackle the high school,” Wells said.

Like the middle school gymnasium, the proposed high school MPR project could also incorporate prefabricated building components, which Wells said a lot of other school districts are selecting for construction projects.

“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. “Of course, we’ll have to look at cost estimates and compare to the budget to see what’s available.”

Prior to its approval by voters in November 2018, Measure G identified four project priorities, which included, in order of priority, the middle and high school MPRs, as well as the Pine School student services building, and Finley Elementary classrooms and offices.

A new high school MPR would be a welcome addition for C.J. Johnston, Holtville High vice principal and athletic director.

“Any time you have a new facility, it’s always a bonus,” Johnston said. “It seems like you never have enough facilities, whether it’s a building or a field.”

Such new facilities provide school officials the opportunity to expand their sports programs, further help students build their interests in sports, as well as provide a venue for the community after school hours, Johnston said.

“Right now, we have more teams practicing then we’ve ever had,” Johnston said. “They’re always fighting over facility time.”

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