There may still be plenty of snow on the ground, but the Freeman School District is still moving ahead with plans to start an extensive remodel of the high school this spring.
Freeman passed a $19.5 million construction bond on its fourth try last May. The bond will pay to completely remodel and expand the high school and elementary school at Highway 27 and Jackson Road.
Original plans called for the school to use five portable buildings holding 10 classrooms donated by Spokane Public Schools to house students, but the district has decided to lease temporary classrooms instead. The Spokane district had offered the old portables for free as long as Freeman paid to have them moved.
Since then, one of the buildings was damaged in a fire, said Freeman Superintendent Sergio Hernandez. Two moving companies also evaluated the temporary buildings and said they would need structural work before they could be moved. “They couldn’t guarantee they would arrive in perfect shape,” he said.
With projected costs mounting, it was decided that it would be a better deal to lease seven newer portable buildings that house 14 classrooms. “When you lease, if anything goes wrong you can call the company,” Hernandez said.
The district hopes to put the remodeling project out to bid the beginning of March and then select the contractor in early April. If everything goes according to schedule and the weather cooperates, construction could start as early as mid-April.
Before construction can begin, however, the entire high school will be emptied. Students and staff will be completely housed in portables and lose access to the high school’s gym and cafeteria. It will be faster and cheaper to completely move the students out, Hernandez said.
“The less phasing you have to do, it reduces the cost,” he said. “This gives them free rein.”
The district will have to be creative in figuring out how one cafeteria will feed students from three schools and how two gyms will do the work of three. “It’ll be challenging at times,” he said. “We’ll have to be flexible.”
Students have already shown that they’re willing to make do. They’ve agreed with staff to have graduation in the old University High School gym this year.
The schedule calls for students to gain access to the portion of the high school that includes the cafeteria, gym and music rooms in November. Students will remain in the temporary classrooms until the building is finished in the summer of 2010. After the high school is complete, work will start on the elementary school.