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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ferris modernization goes into celebration mode

Bathed in natural light, Ferris High School student Nina Maysoet works Thursday on a project in the school’s new art room. (Tyler Tjomsland)

In the middle of a courtyard surrounded by new fields and a renovated building, one Ferris High School tradition still remains — a victory bell that rings after every Saxon achievement.

It may be appropriate to ring the Ferris Victory Bell again.

The modernization of Ferris High School is complete, using $86 million of the $101 million voter-approved budget to transform more than 20 campus buildings, including portables, into one enclosed building. The finished project improves security and efficiency for the high school, and is part of a long-term plan from Spokane Public Schools to renovate buildings and update technology across the city.

The 260,000-square-foot building places 85 classrooms, a library and auditorium all under one roof. Todd Bender, the school’s assistant principal, said in addition to improving the overall look of the school, the design improves student safety.

Having one controlled entrance instead of multiple entrances to different buildings lets school officials monitor the campus with greater ease, he said. The project also improved energy efficiency and was designed following Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol guidelines.

Every classroom has a SMART Board — an interactive white board — project manager David Beaudine said. Sound systems in classrooms and in the auditorium were upgraded, and cameras have been installed throughout the interior and exterior of the building.

“All of this technology is student-centered,” Bender said.

The modernization also includes air conditioning, something missing from the old campus buildings.

Mike Almquist, secretary for the Ferris student government, said he misses the way the old campus was spread out, and thought it had more of a college campus feel.

But, he said, “the new classrooms are fantastic.” One thing he likes about the renovated building is how everyone is more connected.

“I really like the new technology,” said Almquist, adding that his favorite part of the renovation is “just how big it is and how connected everyone feels; everyone knows where everything is now.”

Chris Cochrane, a chemistry teacher who has been at Ferris for 21 years, said the new classrooms make teaching more enjoyable for him and his students. In particular, he is grateful that the lab spaces are separate from the teaching space.

“It’s just been really awesome because there are more places for students to do labs,” Cochrane said.

Outside, there is a science courtyard with areas to grow plants and a water basin to study waterfowl and aquatic systems. School buses are funneled off the street to the back of the school to help traffic flow and prevent students from running into the street, Beaudine said. The auditorium still has the most capacity of any school auditorium in the district.

A 2009 bond made Ferris’ renovation possible. That bond was part of a three-decade plan from Spokane Public Schools to upgrade K-12 schools, said Kevin Morrison, director of community relations for Spokane Public Schools.

The first phase of the four-part plan was a 2003 bond that included a new athletic center for Ferris, which opened in 2007. It also provided major upgrades for Rogers and Shadle Park high schools and helped rebuild three elementary schools: Lidgerwood, Lincoln Heights and Ridgeview.

Some projects from the 2009 bond, the second phase, still are being finished. Renovations to Hutton and Finch elementary schools should be done next year, Morrison said.

The next phase will rely on voter approval of a 2015 bond. Spokane Public Schools is asking for the community’s preference between two school bond package scenarios: One would replace the building for Balboa Elementary, and the second would only add a classroom to the current Balboa Elementary building, but would include a North Central High School replacement and add renovations to Albi Stadium.

Both plans would finish renovations for Salk Middle School, update North Central Commons and replace or improve five other elementary or middle schools. Both are projected to cost $176 million and would not raise tax rates, Morrison said.

For now, the Ferris community can celebrate the renovations, including a ribbon-cutting and dedication today.

“Everyone that’s been part of it is so proud of what’s been accomplished,” Bender said.