A little more than a month ago, there was a baseball field behind Peter G. Schmidt Elementary School in Tumwater.
Now, there’s a full-fledged hard hat zone, complete with temporary metal fencing, dump trucks and other heavy equipment.
On Tuesday, crews were working on forms that will help create a foundation for a new school building that’s scheduled to open in time for the 2016-17 school year.
“It’s been very fun to go past,” said Erin Crabtree, who teaches third grade at the school and lives in the surrounding neighborhood. “Every day, there’s something new.”
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The 60,000-square-foot building is the first major project funded by a $136 million bond measure that voters approved in February 2014. The bond also will fund replacement of Littlerock Elementary School, renovations at East Olympia and Tumwater Hill elementary schools, and expansions of Tumwater and Bush middle schools, among other projects.
The new Peter G. Schmidt, which is being built by Forma Construction, is budgeted to cost about $24.9 million, according to Mel Murray, supervisor of capital projects for the Tumwater School District. Nearly $3.9 million of that will be paid for through a state grant that rewards districts for incorporating energy efficiency and other green aspects into their school designs, he said.
The two-story school will eventually connect to Peter G. Schmidt’s existing gymnasium, which was built in 2005. As part of the project, a building that houses preschool programs — which was built in 1975 but remodeled in 2005 — will undergo some modernization.
What about the rest of the vintage “California model” school, which was built when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president?
“The other three buildings, built in 1957, will be torn down next year, starting in late June,” Murray said.
Peter G. Schmidt Elementary principal Jack Arend said it would have been more expensive to bring the old buildings up to code and remodel them than it will be to build a new school and tear down the old one.
The new building will face Dennis Street Southeast, and it won’t be as close to busy Capitol Boulevard, Arend said.
“It’s going to create a little more of a neighborhood school feel,” he said.
It will feature 30 classrooms, a music room, a library, a computer lab and a multi-purpose room that will double as a cafeteria, Murray said.
School district officials worked closely with parents and community members to create the school’s design, and one of the biggest concerns was student safety, Arend said.
The current school is made up of several pods, and each classroom has an exterior door. The new school will have one main entry, and all of the security features and technology of a modern school.
“It will be nice when we’re all under one roof,” Crabtree said.
School board vice president Bob Barclift was principal at Peter G. Schmidt from 1966 to 1981.
“In the early days, the building, of course, was built to the standards of those days, and it fit very well,” he said.
However, over the years, the school has undergone several remodels. It’s had problems with its heating and ventilation system, and wasn’t built to serve a population of 600 kids, Barclift said.
There are a dozen portables on the campus, but those will go away when the new building opens.
“Everyone is excited,” said parent Ashley Rupp-Tompkins. “Teachers are excited. The kids are excited. Everyone is really looking forward to the modernization, for sure.”