New $35M Charles Hackley Middle School is historic in more ways than one

Muskegon Public Schools’ new middle school not only is making history – it also pays tribute to the past.

The $35 million Charles Hackley Middle School at the former Mercy Hackley Hospital campus represents a milestone by being the district’s first new school construction in 65 years.

Charles Hackley Middle School features large windows for natural lights.

It’s also historic in other ways. The school is named after 19th century lumberman Charles Hackley, who used much of his $12 million fortune to help meet the needs of his booming city of Muskegon, which doubled in population during both the 1870s and the 1880s.

Descendants of the Hackley family will join Muskegon Public Schools officials in formally opening the doors of Charles Hackley Middle School during a community celebration on May 2 from 5:15 to 7 p.m.

The field at Charles Hackley Middle School.

The new three-story, 133,000-square-foot school at 1700 Clinton St. sits on property formerly occupied by Mercy Hackley Hospital. The former Mercy Health system donated the 15 acres to the district in 2021 after it moved its hospital to its new campus on East Sherman Boulevard. 

Symbol of community support

“Charles Hackley Middle School symbolizes the tremendous support by our community to the district, and its central location will be a shining beacon of the innovative teaching methods and career-centered curriculum Muskegon Public Schools is offering,” says Matthew Cortez, superintendent of Muskegon Public Schools.

“From state-of-the-art classrooms to modern architecture and functionality, this school represents the future of our district. The new school is about three blocks from Muskegon High School and is more centrally located, as requested by our community during the bond campaign.”  

A classroom at the new Charles Hackley Middle School.

The 45-classroom building will be able to  accommodate more than 900 students grades six through eight when it opens in August. The current Muskegon Middle School building will be closed and repurposed.
The Christman Company served as general contractor, and TowerPinsker led architectural and engineering efforts. Construction was funded as part of a $104 million bond approved by district voters in 2020. Crews started working on the property in May 2022 following the demolition of the former hospital in late 2021.

The library at the new Charles Hackley Middle School.

Modern features
With hallways and winding corridors filled with natural light, the new school will provide plenty of room for up to 900 students to navigate. Key features include:
  • 45 academic classrooms.
  • Six science lab classrooms.
  • Dedicated floors for each grade (eighth grade on first, seventh on second, and sixth on third).
  • 2,076-square-foot media center.
  • 6,175-square-foot cafeteria and dining area.
  • “Chill Zone” room for quiet learning and rest.
  • Music wing with space for choir, band and orchestras.
  • 11,000-square-foot gymnasium with indoor elevated running track and bleacher seating for 700.
  • Weight room.
  • Multipurpose cardio room for yoga, dance and cardio fitness.
  • Four private, stalled restroom systems.
  • Regulation-size track and turf field capable of hosting football, soccer and lacrosse.
  • STEAM lab with more than $250,000 of equipment.
Not as apparent to students and guests are the safety elements incorporated into the structure. From the shape of the building to blue light lockdown alarms and spectacular window designs, the new school is designed to provide the safest environment possible for students and visitors.

The gym at the new Charles Hackley Middle School.
“We have provided not only the most modern learning environment, but we’re also showcasing the district’s commitment to safety,” adds John Snyder, director of operations for the district. “The brightly lit environment provides our students a healthy and welcoming environment that helps them focus while keeping them safe. We feel this new building removes barriers while providing guardrails should we need them.”

Getting ready to move
Teachers and staff from Muskegon Middle School will begin the process of moving into the facility as soon as the school year ends.
“We are so excited to get into the new school and begin preparing for the 2024/2025 school year,” says LaKisha Loudermill, Charles Hackley Middle School Principal. “This new facility will expand the horizons of our students and staff in a way that just is not available in our current building. In doing so, we empower our educators and staff to explore new ways of teaching and connecting with our kids. We are so appreciative to the community for supporting this endeavor.”
The facility’s use of brick is a nod to the district's history and its brick-constructed schools. The school’s name is also an homage to Muskegon’s most notable family, the Hackleys.
“The Hackley name is synonymous with Muskegon, and the family has been a wonderful friend to the district, so we felt naming the school after Charles Hackley would be a way to express our gratitude to their legacy,” Cortez adds. 

The great-great-grandson of famed lumber baron Charles Hackley is expected to participate in the May 2 festivities.

Photos courtesy of Muskegon Public Schools
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.