By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – Scott Kibby is like a kid in a candy shop. The Liberty High School principal delights at every new tile, every decorative flourish, every swipe of paint at the school.
“I’m taking a picture of my lines,” Kibby said excitedly as he emerged from his car (license: BOLT1) Friday afternoon. “How awesome is that.”
He proceeded to take a photo of the parking lot lines that were new since his last visit to the school, probably less than a day ago.
Liberty, at the intersection of North Dubuque Street and North Liberty Road, is still under construction, but it’s far enough along to see it should be ready for its close-up in August when it opens its doors for the first time.
Since being named principal Kibby has been scurrying around helping to plan the layout, hiring staff and generally behaving like an expectant father. He is also a knowledgeable tour guide.
Step through the front doors to the impressive foyer. Foyer being a bit of a misnomer because it’s more of a central commons.
“This is my favorite view,” Kibby said.
High overhead is a black swirl in the ceiling that ties the space together from the door to the opposite end of the building where large windows look out on what will eventually be sports venues. The stone walls give a clean, modern look to the area.
Students will lunch at the north end of the commons in a brightly lit space that includes “bar seating” with electrical outlets at the ready. Dining is a la carte with different stations offering different items.
A large women’s rest room, akin to those in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, is off the commons across from the new gym and adjacent to what will be concession areas on game nights.
The gym is the biggest among the Iowa City high schools. Kibby compared its setup to that of Linn-Mar or Cedar Rapids Prairie. It has three basketball courts running east-west, 10 baskets and a large scoreboard with video capabilities. Kibby said it will seat between 2,000 and 2,200 fans.
The school has a second, smaller gym, which is bigger than West’s second gym and will provide enough space for regulation volleyball practices.
“We’ll go five courts of volleyball practice at once; three in the main gym and two back here,” Kibby said.
And it’s all air conditioned, a big upgrade from City High and even the late-60’s era West High.
The wrestling room, large enough for two 42×42 mats, is positioned directly across from the main gym doors.
“These doors line up with those doors, and maybe only an athletic director thinks that way, but you can get the mats in and out in a logical manner,” Kibby said. “I got to be involved in some of those (planning) conversations, which was just an absolute ball.”
The locker rooms have easy access out the back to the athletic fields, so that a separate building is not necessary as it was at West’s Trojan Field. They will also have timers that are synchronized with the clock in the gym or (eventually) the football stadium so coaches and players know when to return to action. A separate room for referees will have the same feature.
No dingy, dark strength-training facility for the Lightning athletes. Seven big north-facing windows highlight the weight room.
Outside the athletic area, student lockers are engraved with the Liberty Lightning logo and thunderbolt.
The fine arts wing is spectacular. The theater includes an orchestra pit and seats about 820, similar to West’s auditorium.
“One of the things they reacted to was the orchestra pit,” Kibby said of students. “’You’ve got an orchestra pit!’ It comes with a cover so you can extend the stage out into the auditorium further, so there’s not this big gap. Orchestra is massive in Iowa City.”
Liberty has separate rooms for band, orchestra and choir along with sound-proof practice rooms, donated by the University of Iowa.
Kibby looks at the library as a collaborative space where students can work together.
“All that beautiful light; I just love walking in here,” he said. “There are no computer labs in this building. There’s a video-audio studio, you can do broadcasting in there. These other three…I call them collaboration labs. We have bullet-shaped tables, monitors on the wall.”
Instead of being exiled to separate rooms students will be encouraged to share information and projects.
“(Librarian) Jan (Smith) and I are thinking this is not a class space. We want this to be a busy space,” Kibby said.
Classrooms are carpeted, state of the art and provide ample storage space for staff and students. Science labs are right in the classroom and are paired with an office and storage space in between. All of the classrooms have windows, even the study hall.
The main office is off the front door.
Liberty is built so that the academic wing can add 500 seats if this fall’s bond issue is approved. The bond includes funding not only for athletic fields but for extra classroom space.
Kibby walked out the makeshift front door and pointed to the newly installed lettering on the side of the building: Liberty High School.
It’s starting to look like a real school. And Kibby thinks it’s awesome. He’s right.