Next phase of school’s construction nears

Mark Schierbecker
Staff Writer

With the high school’s construction drawing to a close this summer, planners will soon turn their attention to the next challenge.

The current construction makes up the first of three phases. While the exact course is undecided, the next phases involve extensive renovation to the school’s south wing over the next 30 years.

Outlined in the school’s 2009 Refined Master Plan are an enclosed courtyard, expanded library, athletic facilities and a roomy two-level parking garage.

The emphasis of the plan involves renovation of the existing building by realigning the classes with their core subject areas.

The courtyard could become part of the Commons with a partially-glazed atrium roof and access to all floors via open-air stair cases. According to Wight & Co. of Chicago, the lead architect of the current construction phase, the improvements would shorten commutes to class and enable the courtyard to be used year-round.

“Most schools…have a student area,” said principal Jon Clark.

“The dome over the courtyard…would be very nice. Right now our students…don’t have anywhere to go,” said Clark

The library is set to acquire the area that is now the “Taco Bell corridor” behind it to merge with the library’s media center. In addition, the defunct “stairway to nowhere” will be removed.

The existing auditorium could be given an orchestra pit and sound and lighting enhancements. The Little Theater (built 1935) could be moved from its isolated position behind FACS to behind the auditorium and a modular “black box” theater would take the former’s place.

The plan also calls for the construction of a half million dollar additional level on top of the existing staff parking lot. Although doing much to alleviate the school’s parking woes, getting approval for this project could prove to be a bit of a challenge for the school board.

“Neighbors don’t want to see a parking tier on top of ground surface parking in their backyard,” said Diane Moore, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer.

The future of the newly constructed temporary auto shop remains ambiguous as the school has yet to decide what it might use the space for.

“I could see the ‘temporary’ auto shop becoming a permanent storage area for school supplies,” said industrial technology department chair Frank Mandernach.

“Contractors could also use the space for temporarily storing construction materials. The area is actually one of the best constructed rooms in the building aside from the north addition. This room has walls that are rated to four hours of fire resistance,” said Mandernach

If the master plan comes to fruition, the school board is going to need a lot of funds.

“The costs associated with the second and third phases has everything to do with renovating an existing building and that means there are a lot of hidden costs,” said Moore.

“When we tear down walls and look underneath floors and look in the ceilings, we find things that we never knew were there. It’s an old building,” Moore said.

Voters passed Proposition W, a $36 million zero-tax-increase bond issue, in April 2010 to finance the first phase. To finance the second phase, the school board will need to convince voters to pass another bond issue. According to Moore, cost is going to be key.

“What you see in the master plan is very realistic. It’s what’s right for kids,” said Moore.

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