When Jesse Hardt became a teacher, he never thought he would have to learn about soil types and dry wells as part of his job. But as the new principal of Ridgeline High School, under construction on the edge of the city of Liberty Lake, he’s learning all about what it takes to build a new school from scratch.
“I try to come out once a week,” Hardt said. “We walk out here with our architect and construction manager.”
Site work is well underway. The water and sewer pipes and power and data lines are in and buried. The 60 dry wells to be installed sit ready and the building site has been transformed from an uneven hayfield to a flat expanse.
“They raised this way up,” Hardt said, pointing to the portion where the high school will go. “We’re on 3 to 4 feet of dirt and rock. You want a really solid base for the building.”
All the dirt and rock came from a small hill on the property. The hill was dismantled and sorted into piles of large rocks, small rocks and dirt. The large rocks were crushed to help make the fill. A pile of topsoil was set aside to be spread back over the sports fields when construction is complete.
Last year the Central Valley School District purchased 99 acres from the Spokane Gun Club at 19615 E. Sprague Ave. The club is still operating but will shut down in July 2021 shortly before the new school is scheduled to open.
As part of the construction process, Henry Road south of Country Vista Drive has been renamed Kramer Parkway, in honor of Liberty Lake resident Ludlow Kramer, to avoid confusion with the new Henry Lane that the school is putting in to provide access to the site from Country Vista Drive.
The school district also requested that 60 acres of the site be annexed into the city of Liberty Lake, a request that was recently approved, said Superintendent Ben Small. His district has dealt with the city during construction of other schools, and they know the process the city uses, he said. “I think we’re happy to be in the city,” Small said. “This property was in the county.”
The site work is being done by Debco Construction. The construction contract will go out to bid this month and construction should begin soon after, Small said. The district put the site work in a separate contract to save time and ensure the school is complete by fall 2021. “Having the site work done before we go out to bid is so helpful,” he said. “It’s actually a very good timeline.”
Small said he’s been monitoring progress on the site, and he’s pleased with how things are going. “I drive by every morning and check what’s going on,” he said. “I’ve just been impressed with the accuracy of what’s been happening here.”
The concern for keeping the schedule will also affect how the school will be built. One wing will be built at a time and as each wing is finished, furniture will be moved in and other finishing touches completed.
“Outfitting the school is as intense as designing and building it,” Hardt said.
The school is being built because the district’s current high schools, Central Valley and University, are overcrowded. Each was built to house 1,600 students and there are currently 4,324 students, with another 1,000 projected by 2021. The district currently has 14 portable classrooms at Central Valley and six at University.
Ridgeline High School will be a two-story building covering 240,000 square feet, enough space for 1,600 students. There will be four baseball and softball fields in the northwest corner of the site along Appleway Avenue and tennis courts just to the west of the school. There will be football and soccer fields south of the school. This spring the plans were changed slightly to add an additional soccer field.
“The soccer field would have been added now or later, and it was best to do it now,” Small said.
The project is being paid for by a construction bond approved by voters last year. “I think we’re on our budget,” Small said. “We’re in a good bid market right now.”
Henry Lane will provide access to staff parking and buses. A second entrance road will be put in at Country Vista Drive that will access the main parking lot in front of the school. That entrance will have a signal on Country Vista and a roundabout at the exit of the parking lot, which sits back from the main road, Hardt said. “We’re flowing everyone through,” Hardt said.
Most of the land immediately south of Country Vista Drive is owned by Centennial Properties. Centennial Properties is a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review. Hay is growing right up to the property line, but Hardt said the land is zoned commercial and could later be home to coffee shops or restaurants. “Our staff would appreciate that, especially a coffee shop,” he said.
He said he likes that the high school is near the middle of the site. “Being away from the road is kind of nice,” Hardt said.
There will be plenty of landscaping on site, even in the parking lot. The district is required to install landscaping every 10 stalls that includes lights, trees and shrubs, Hardt said. “That’s a city of Liberty Lake requirement,” he said. “It just amazes me that we’ll have 100 trees in the parking lot.”
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