Several hundred students, parents and supporters celebrated Tuesday night’s dedication of the 550-seat Palestine Middle School Competition Gym, with leaders thanking the district’s constituents for their support of its construction.

The gym is part of the district’s $64 million bond package which is bringing improvements to all campuses, including the building of an essentially new high school.

In his comments to the gathering of approximately 400 persons, Palestine Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Thomas A. Wallis thanked the district’s board of trustees for “taking a step of faith and that’s exactly what it was,” referring to their support of the bond package which was overwhelming approved by voters in May 2009.

“Our middle school gym,” Wallis stated, “is now nicer than most people’s high school gym.”

PISD Board of Trustees President Michael Bennett thanked the district’s voters for allowing the district to build the new gym and make other dramatic improvements to facilities districtwide.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the people of Palestine,” Bennett told the crowd.

Palestine Middle School Principal Larissa Loveless indicated her students now have greater opportunity through the new facility.

“Our students have never had wood floors like this,” Loveless told Tuesday’s crowd, “…and a place to gather together.”

During Tuesday’s ceremony, Wallis and attendees recited a dedication pledge, concluding with “may this building always be a symbol of our commitment to quality education.”

The gym construction’s is part of Phase II of PISD’s bond package.

Telescoping seating at the gym can be collapsed to take advantage of additional floor space for student activities. The state-of-the-art facility will be used to host athletic events and assemblies. It features a large foyer at its entrance.

The Palestine Middle School Gym was designed by Claycomb Associates, Architects and constructed by Charter Builders.

Phase II of PISD’s bond project carries a pricetag of approximately $19.9 million and also includes renovations to Northside Primary School and Southside Elementary School.

Renovations at those campuses will be dedicated in separate ceremonies on Thursday, Feb. 24.

The Northside Primary School dedication is set for 10 a.m. on that date, while the Southside Elementary School dedication will follow at 1 p.m.

Phase III of the project consists of the construction of a virtually new high school.

District officials are hopeful the new Palestine High School will be completed in time for the start of the 2012-13 school year in August 2012.