Worth the wait: Gym thrills seniors


Photos by Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Jasper High School seniors filed into the school’s newly constructed gymnasium Thursday afternoon for a senior class photograph and to practice for their graduation ceremony. The gym is nearly complete and will serve as the commencement location for the seniors at 6:30 tonight. For more photos, click here.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — For many Jasper High School seniors, their first glimpse of the new gymnasium came when they donned their caps and gowns to take their assigned seats on the basketball court floor for graduation practice Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve never been in,” senior Hannah Nordhoff said as she waited in her graduation garb in a school hallway. “I looked through the windows, and that’s it. I liked it a lot.”

This year’s graduates were sophomores when the old gym’s roof collapsed on the morning after prom on May 2, 2011. Almost a year to the day after the loss of the old gym, construction began on the new facility.

Thursday, the 233 seniors gathered on the new bleachers for a class photo, arranging themselves to spell out “JHS” for the camera. It was then time to run through their entrance for the ceremony, which took several attempts because none of the school administrators had ever experienced a commencement in the new space before.

The students lined up in the hallways of the school in alphabetical order, many chatting about last year’s ceremony that was held in Huntingburg Memorial Gym through the help of the Southwest Dubois School Corp. JHS got permission to use the Huntingburg facility for commencement again this year as a contingency plan, but clerk-of-the-works Scott Stenftenagel confirmed at a board meeting this week that the building was ready and all necessary inspections had been performed.

Kyle Nordhoff said he was proud to be a part of “the first time (graduation) is actually going to happen” in the new gym.

The Jasper High School seniors spelled out “JHS” on the bleachers in the school’s newly constructed gymnasium Thursday afternoon as they gathered for a senior class photograph before participating in a walk-through of their graduation ceremony. The letters are spelled into the bleachers on both sides of the court, with gold-colored seats surrounded by black seats.

Maria Bachman, Maria Baer and Ashley Brinkman stood together in the front of the line, waiting to practice entering the gym at the proper pace and finding their seats. They laughed, remembering their fears earlier in the year that construction would not be completed in time to allow them to close out their high school careers on their home turf.

“Around December, we were just kind of like, ”˜There’s just bricks everywhere,’” Bachman said. “But I would have graduated in here even if there were no roof.”

Thursday was her first chance to see the new facility, which she said will make her feel “more at home” when the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” begin this evening.
“It’s more comfortable,” Baer agreed. “It’s makes it more personal.”

Conducting his first graduation practice as the school’s lead administrator, Principal Brian Wilson directed students down the aisles over the brown tarp that covered the basketball court. He said having the gym mostly completed is a treat for students and their parents.

“For (the students), I think being a part of watching and listening to other students and their feelings about having to graduate somewhere else, it’s probably a big deal,” he said. “It’s just fantastic to have the facility that we’re going to have for many, many decades to come. We’re not done yet.”

Though the building is almost completed, crews will remain at work until July 1 performing final touches including polishing the concrete floors in the hallways and lobbies and installing glass in trophy display cases. Tonight will mark the first time the doors are officially opened to the public, and the ceremony will serve as a showcase for all of the work that has been done. Doors open for commencement at 5:45 p.m. and the ceremony will begin at 6:30.

“I’m sure (parents) will be proud to be here, and their children will be graduating in a gym that the school and community will be so proud of,” Wilson said.

The students had one final practice this morning to prepare for their big night. Brinkman said her excitement is mounting.

“It’s like a right of passage,” she said. “It’s traditional, instead of having to bus to Southridge.”

Contact Claire Moorman at cmoorman@dcherald.com.

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