A new lunchroom, gym and track are the top three needs of Tom Albers, principal of Hays Middle School.

Albers, who is in his second year as principal, led the USD 489 school board and other district staff on a tour of the school during the board’s work study session Monday night.

At the end of the tour, superintendent Ron Wilson asked Albers what his top needs at the school were. Wilson added extra classroom space to Albers’ list.

The board’s visit to the lunchroom — with tables folded against the walls and empty of staff and students — was a stark contrast to the noise and activity during the daily lunch period from about 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., when almost 700 students get in line, get seated and eat their lunch. But the noise is necessary, Albers said.

“If you think about it, they have four minutes between classes. In class they’re not talking, they have 42-minute periods. It’s important they do this. We want kids to talk. It’s important. So it does get noisy,” he said.

Each class has about 20 minutes to get through lunch, with new groups coming in within minutes of each other.

Albers gave credit to assistant principal Shauna Zweifel for making the process work smoothly.

“It’s just a matter of working the schedule,” she said. “You know this group’s coming in at 11, the next group at 11:03, the next one at 11:06. I’ve got to make sure you get them out of there when it’s time because the other kids are waiting to sit down. It looks like a little ant farm."

Albers said the middle school lunchroom also serves about 150 to 200 breakfasts every morning.

Across the hall from the lunchroom, Albers told the board the school had an “awesome” gym. He pointed out the weights area that’s used in six out of eight periods.

“The thing that’s not really nice is that it’s THE gym,” he said, emphasizing the singularness of the facility.

One day last year, Albers said, he was in the gym when physical education teachers Bruce Rupp, Justin Hejny and Jessica Dale all had students there at the same time.

Rupp was working with a weights class, which used a counting system for students to move from station to station. Dale was giving a PACER test — shuttle runs back and forth as a cardiovascular endurance test that uses a public address system — and Hejny was using a bullhorn with his students.

“It was crazy that we would put this many kids in a gym at one time, but it’s the only option we have. We’re talking 110 at least,” he said.

Albers led the board members outside to the school’s track. One hundred and seventy-seven students were on the school’s track team last year, he said. But he pointed out a portion of the track where asphalt patches stretched across the pavement.

“I’m not a huge runner anymore, but I do run from time to time,” Albers said.

He said while running on the middle school track, he twisted his ankle at the patched spot.

“I wasn’t paying attention. You guys that are runners understand. If I break my stride, I’m not a very good runner anymore. And so every time I came around, I had to short step myself to get over it,” he said.

Every day during track season, the students warm up in that area, he said.

Albers also pointed out some of the highlights of the middle school during the tour, including the industrial education classroom. Teacher Brad Moritz talked about the robotics programming and a laser engraver. He has been experimenting with projects students can do on wood and soft metals.

“That particular machine will add a whole new dimension in the things we can actually show kids what’s going on in the industry and get jazzed about careers in that particular area,” he said.

He also has an after-school robotics program with 50 kids meeting. A section of the classroom will have a robotics arena where students will try to complete challenges with robots they build.