Fifth-graders at Jefferson Elementary School can’t wait to roam the halls of their new school next year, where they will become the first graduating class of the school in its new location on the South Hill.
“I like that everyone gets a locker,” 10-year-old Chloe Olson said. “I like that the gym is going to be separate from the cafeteria because people get sweaty, then it smells sweaty in there.”
The first thing Leah Harner plans to do on her first day of school is “scream ‘yeah,’ ” she said. Reagan Zbylski, 11, says he’s just “excited about everything.”
Jefferson Elementary – a $24.8 million project – is the second of Spokane Public Schools’ K-6 schools to be rebuilt using 2009 bond funds. The rebuild of Ferris High School is about 50 percent done.
The groundbreaking for Finch Elementary School’s new building is expected in June. The expansion of North Central High School’s Institute of Science and Technology, classroom additions at Mullan Road Elementary School and work on a new gymnasium at Salk Middle School are also expected to begin this summer.
Jefferson is expected to be largely done by Aug. 1.
Rebuilding the historic school on the opposite end of school’s 4.5-acre site has been controversial since the start.
Residents who live closest to the new building’s location didn’t want it there, saying it would hurt property values and that the 2009 bond issue misled voters because the measure stated it would “modernize” the school, not move and rebuild it.
District officials say some neighbors have softened their stance. “We’ve even had some neighborhood folks come up to us who weren’t sure we should build our school there and say they are glad we did,” said Greg Brown, the school district’s capital projects and planning director.
The new school will be a one-level, 60,000-square-foot building with state-of-the-art technology and a traditional feel.
The building’s brick exterior resembles the outside of the old Jefferson. Also, the classrooms are being built with high ceilings.
“We are just trying to build a more traditional classroom,” Brown said. “Everything that was pre-World War II had really high ceilings.”
By 2015, the current bond will have paid for new buildings or significant remodels for five elementary schools in the district. Westview was completed last fall. Finch, Hutton and Mullan Road construction projects are next.
Completion of Ferris High School is expected in the summer of 2014.
The interior of Ferris is expected to be done by December, and then exterior work will start, as well as work on the athletic fields and the parking lots.
So far, about 40 classrooms, the main office, the commons area with the cafeteria, and areas for the Associated Student Body and DECA have been completed, Brown said. More classrooms, as well as the library, auditorium, performing arts department, arts department, and career and technical education wing, are yet to be finished.
All the wings will be connected by a curved corridor instead of the former design of separate buildings.
The Ferris project will cost about $87 million, Brown said. That’s about $10 million less than originally estimated.
He added that “good bidding climates and efficient design” have resulted in savings on bond projects, which will help pay for the upgrades at Mullan Road and North Central.