Hereford rendering

A rendering of the 3-story, 44,440-square-foot addition soon to be built at Hereford High School. (Courtesy Hereford High School / March 15, 2013)

It's a good thing Hereford High School principal Andrew Last has a construction background from his time spent restoring old houses in his native England. These days, he spends a lot of time looking at blueprints, diagrams and drawings as Hereford is beginning a $51.1 million renovation project.

The work will be done in segments and the entire project should be completed by the time school starts in 2015, said Pete Dixit, executive director of physical facilities for the public school system. He said $45.3 million is designated for construction costs, with $5.8 million for furniture, fixtures and design.

Construction crews are already working at the school, located at 17301 York Road and which opened to students in 1953.

The first priority is a three-story, 44,440-square-foot addition behind the school. It will contain a new cafeteria, kitchen and school store on the first floor. The top two floors are designed for 11 science labs. The existing cafeteria and kitchen will be converted to music rooms and a dance studio.

The new wing will connect to the school with a raised, two-level walkway with glass sides. The schedule calls for the new wing to be finished when students return from Christmas break in early January 2014.

"We are going to be a state-of-the art school," Last said. "We'll have computer access at all the science lab stations. In the rest of the school, every single class will have teacher boards where they can reach up and move images like on an iPad."

Classrooms in the main building will get new ceilings, floors and doors as well as updated wiring and heat and air-conditioning ducts. The entire school will be air-conditioned, he said.

Contractors will take on four classrooms at a time, Last said. Teachers and students will move out to portable classrooms on the school's parking lot until their rooms are completed.

Hereford currently has seven portable classrooms and several additional ones will be brought in during construction.

The school's auditorium should be completely redone by the start of school in August. The 728 hard wooden seats will be replaced with more comfortable ones. A new digital light and sound system will be installed, too.

The gym is getting a new floor and bleachers and a new athletic field is planned to go southeast of the existing football stadium.

Visitors to Hereford will enter the school into a two-story lobby with plenty of glass ceilings and walls. The office will have glass walls, too, enabling personnel to see into the lobby.

A new security system at the front doors that only allows visitors access after being seen on camera will be installed next month. That buzzer system will also be put into the reworked lobby.

Students will be happy to hear that more parking spaces will be added to the campus. Some 147 will go where barns used for the Hereford Junior Farm Fair were located, while an additional 32 are planned for in front of the school.

"The whole design is to get students off Bunker Hill Road where a lot of them park now," said assistant principal Joe Jira. "It's not safe for many reasons."

Third District Councilman Todd Huff said he has talked with the school's administration about the renovations on a regular basis and is scheduled to do a walk-through soon to see the progress.

"My father graduated from Hereford in the mid-1960s, so I've been happy to make sure the project has gone forward and help it get funding. I'm very happy it's finally happening."