Wednesday is the first day of class for the majority of students in South Sound public schools.
And some of those students will find their school grounds are surrounded by extra fencing to keep kids away from the temporary hard-hat zones on their campuses.
Major construction projects began over the summer at North Thurston High School and Evergreen Forest Elementary School in Lacey, and Peter G. Schmidt Elementary School in Tumwater.
For the first time in several years, Olympia School District doesn’t have any major capital projects slated during the school year, according to district spokesman Conor Schober.
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“All of the projects that they had planned for the summer have wrapped up,” he said.
The $40 million addition and remodeling project at North Thurston High School is scheduled to take three years, according to Mike Laverty, the district’s director of construction and design.
The project, which has a total budget of $75 million for planning, infrastructure, permitting and building, was designed by Cornerstone Architectural Group; Forma Construction is the contractor.
Phase 1 includes demolition of the existing gym and construction of a new fitness center and gym, scheduled to be completed in about a year. Vertical steel columns have already been set, and the new gym will be framed later this fall, Laverty said.
If everything goes as planned, the new, nearly 42,000-square-feet fitness center will be open in time for the 2016-17 school year, officials say.
“It’s designed to support the stadium activities,” Laverty said.
In addition, new music classrooms are being added to the Koval Performing Arts Center. When those projects are finished, North Thurston Principal Steve Rood said the stadium-side of the campus will feel like a courtyard.
“It’s going to be a great gathering place for the community and kids,” he said. “We’re very excited about it.”
The new Peter G. Schmidt, which also 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.
The two-story school will eventually connect to Peter G. Schmidt's existing gymnasium, which was built in 2005. Three older buildings will be torn down next summer.
Evergreen Forest Elementary School in Lacey is getting a $22 million remodel and addition, which includes a new modular building with eight classrooms, technology upgrades and renovations throughout the main building.
The project was designed by Integrus Architecture, and the general contractor is Jones & Roberts Co. It is scheduled to be finished in time for next school year.
Demolition of North Thurston’s old gym is scheduled to begin in late October. At that point, the school’s fitness classes and athletic programs will use the former Bally Total Fitness building that the district purchased across the street, Rood said.
Phase II of the project will include modernization of the existing building, which will include 22 new classrooms, including state-of-the-art science labs.
Rood said he plans to talk about the construction project Wednesday during an all-school assembly.
“We anticipate we’re going to have to be flexible,” he said. “We’ve been talking to kids and staff about that, and it’s going to be worth it.”
Rood said he’ll also be addressing the fact that construction fencing blocks off some routes that students often take to class, especially the ones that go to portable buildings.
“We need them to really work with us and stay safe and get to class on time,” he said.
Here are other major construction projects going on this year at South Sound schools:
▪ North Thurston Public Schools’ Middle School No. 5 is a $48 million, 109,000-square-foot building that is being built in Meridian Campus in northeast Lacey. It is scheduled to be finished in about a year.
▪ River Ridge High School in Lacey is getting about $14 million in upgrades, including a new roof and science labs and upgrades to its pool. Some of the work has been completed, and more is scheduled to take place during the next two summer breaks.