Construction has become a way of life for students and staff at Cheney High School, with work on additions and improvements now in the second year.
The changes will increase the school’s capacity to 1,600 students, said district superintendent Robert Roettger. “It was originally built for 900, and we’re at 1,200,” he said. “There were eight portables out here.”
The $40 million project is being paid for by a $52 million bond that was approved by voters in 2017. The bond also paid to add seven classrooms to Betz Elementary, eight classrooms at Windsor Elementary and 10 classrooms at Sunset Elementary.
It was not the district’s first attempt to pass a construction bond to make improvements to the high school. “There were multiple attempts prior,” Roettger said.
Work on a new science and math wing of 17 classrooms on the north side of the school was completed in April. Now the construction crews are working to complete three more classrooms on the Sixth Avenue side of the school plus a new commons area near the front entry, a kitchen, a practice gymnasium, weight room and a 500-seat auditorium.
“We have a small one that we called the little theater with 300 seats and a small stage,” Roettger said of the school’s current auditorium.
The school will also get a new 1,200-square-foot greenhouse and a new concession stand. Some of the projects on the south side of the school, which include the gym and auditorium, are expected to be complete in December.
Students were entering the school through a temporary side entrance until recently. “Students and the community did a great job with that side entrance,” he said. “It wasn’t optimal, but it worked.”
Roettger said the school’s new front entry will be secured, unlike the old one. The office was also down the hall from the front door.
“You could come in the building and go right down a hallway,” he said.
But the main entrance will shift location again before construction is complete. After the auditorium is finished students will enter through the auditorium entrance and the administrative offices will be temporarily located in the new weight room, which is right next to that entrance. This is expected to last until June, Roettger said.
“We all wish we could do everything in three months,” he said. “I think after two years of construction everyone is ready for it to be done.”
The new administrative offices being built on the south side of the school next to what will be the front entry will be among the last projects to be finished. The contractor is Lydig Construction Inc. of Spokane Valley. ALSC Architects PS of Spokane designed the project.
The district also got a $1.9 million STEM grant that has been used to fund several areas, including a sports medicine classroom, a bio medicine lab and a water jet CNC machine in the high-tech welding lab.
One parking lot was redone and another is being added on the west side of the school. A parent drop-off area will be added on the east side. “What we’re trying to do is separate parents, buses and traffic,” Roettger said.
A $600,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant will pay for improvements on Sixth and Eighth avenues, including crosswalk and turn lane improvements and the addition of flashing pedestrian warning lights.
Other changes will be coming once the new construction comes online. The current weight room will become a wood shop and the current administrative office area will become a DECA store run by students.
Though getting into and around the school has been a challenge, Roettger said there’s been minimal disruption to the school day.
“We’ve gone through the worst of it,” he said.
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