Housing construction is booming north of Spokane and now so is construction in the Mead School District. One elementary school remodel is just beginning, another is in its last phase and a new middle school opened in January.
Director of Facilities and Planning Ned Wendle spent some time this week checking out the nearly complete reconstruction of Midway Elementary.
“It’s a complete modernization,” he said. “We took this down to the bones, including the interior walls. Bathrooms, kitchen, everything is brand new in this building from floor to ceiling.”
The school has remained occupied while construction is underway. The project, which started last June, has tackled one wing at a time. While a wing is being worked on, students who normally have class in that wing have moved into four two-classroom portable buildings out back. The fourth and final wing is now under construction and the school will be fully complete by the time students return in the fall, Wendle said.
During construction the design of the building was changed slightly. Three classrooms in the center were removed and six new classrooms were added to the ends of the wings.
The school was rebuilt with an eye toward saving money on maintenance. Sinks are outside the bathrooms to help reduce messes and the hallways are tile, not carpet. The lower part of the walls are scuff proof and the upper part “heals” itself after staples or thumb tacks are removed. The lighting is all LED, and there are occupancy sensors that turn off lights if no one is in the room.
The gym is finished and now boasts a lofty ceiling and a wood floor. “It had a dropped ceiling in here and carpet over concrete,” Wendle said. “That’s the way they did it back in the ’80s.”
There will also be a giant door between the gym and the multipurpose room next door that doubles as a cafeteria and a community room. That will help accommodate the school’s large Christmas program, which previously had to be run five or six times in order to fit in everyone who wanted to attend.
Music teacher Karen Brasch moved into her new room over Christmas Break. It’s a large space with drums lining the walls and a closet stuffed with musical instruments. “It’s a beautiful school,” she said. “We’re so excited.”
Much the same thing will happen at Shiloh Hills Elementary, except that project will go faster because all the students have been moved to the old Northwood Middle School. Construction started on April 16. Shiloh is the same design as Midway and will have the same work done, but they’re adding nine new classrooms instead of six. Both projects are expected to cost an estimated $16 million.
Wendle said he prefers being able to move all the students out of the building during construction, but that wasn’t possible at Midway because construction began before the new Northwood Middle School was finished.
“It’s more expensive to do phased construction,” he said.
Still, students at Midway have made the best of things and construction crews have worked to keep the noise and odors under control, Wendle said.
“We try to keep it as normal as possible,” he said. “It’s been very good.”
The boom in construction is due to a $69.5 million construction bond approved by voters in 2015. It also paid for smaller projects and upgrades at other schools in the district.
Up next are the projects outlined in the construction bond voters just approved in February. That will include another new middle school, a new elementary school, a transportation facility, a maintenance facility and a performing arts and athletics venue.
With all the new growth happening in the area, Wendle said he’s worried that the new schools will be full before they even open.
The district has been growing by 300 students each year for the past three years, which has put a strain on the buildings, Wendle said.
“There’s a lot of home construction,” he said. “The ones that kill us are apartment complexes. We get a lot of kids out of apartment complexes here.”
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