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New classrooms part of Finch renovation

Finch Elementary School, just northeast of Audubon Park on North Milton Street, is next in line for a major renovation beginning in the spring.

Finch was built in 1924 but, according to Spokane Public School’s website, it quickly became too small because nearby schools were consolidated and the neighborhood surrounding it grew rapidly. Portable classrooms have been on site for the past 50 years.

Parents and neighbors had a chance to look at construction plans and make comments last Thursday during the school’s parent night, where more than 200 visitors showed up. About 60 signed in for the design presentation said Greg Brown, Spokane Public Schools director of capital projects.

“Most of the feedback and the comments we got were positive,” Brown said.

There are slightly more than 500 students at Finch, and during construction they will be moved to the old Westview Elementary School building, about 1.5 miles away.

“We got some negative comments about that,” Brown said. “Parents want to know how we are going to get the kids there. At this point, all we can say is that we will provide transportation.” The new Westview Elementary School opened its doors Tuesday, but the old building was not torn down so that the district could use it during construction at Finch.

The Finch renovation is estimated to cost $26.9 million and will include demolition of portable classrooms as well as construction of up-to-date classroom wings and modernization of the historical parts of the school.

“At Finch we are not tearing anything down that isn’t portable,” Brown said. “Nothing old will be torn down.” He added that the total cost of the renovation may be a little lower because prices are lower today than they were when the school bond that’s funding the renovation was passed in 2009.

Construction is expected to be completed by fall 2014.

The school district has already hosted construction presentations at three neighborhood council meetings, and Brown said he expects there will be at least one more meeting this fall where parents and neighbors can comment on building plans. Brown said Finch has a high percentage of students whose parents also went to school at Finch and have a deep connection with the neighborhood.

“We have been meeting with the Spokane Landmarks Commission to make sure the renovation stays true to the historic character of the building,” Brown said. “We are excited to modernize another school with historic character in Spokane.”

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