Transforming an old fire station into a high school has its challenges.
“Within the space, you have sloped floors, you’ve got internal drains, you’ve got other features that really are geared for a fire station,” said Trent Hart, the architect who helped design the expansion of Pope John Paul II High School in Lacey. “So there’s a significant amount of work that’s gone into the redevelopment of this facility to accommodate students in class.”
The $1.75 million remodelling project will turn the former Lacey Fire Station’s bays into three classrooms, and convert other space in the facility into a state-of-the-art science lab. The work is scheduled to be done by mid-August.
The majority of the building was remodeled before the school opened in January 2011 at 5608 Pacific Ave. SE, just east of Saint Martin’s University.
So far, about $1.55 million has been secured in pledges and donations to help pay for the expansion project, according to Andrew Kapust, co-chairman of the school’s “Now and Forever” capital campaign. Fundraising for the additional $200,000 is underway, he said.
Families, alumni, donors and other supporters of the private Catholic high school, which has become known as “JPII,” had a chance to view progress on the construction project during an open house Tuesday. Crews began framing the area about a month ago, so the newly converted spaces are beginning to take shape.
“It’s wonderful,” said parent Roland Rivera. “It’s really exciting to see.”
The first phase of the school was about 10,000 square feet, and featured seven classrooms, offices and a commons area. The expansion project will add another 5,800 square feet of usable space, Hart said.
The school opened with 20 students its first year, and the expansion will help it continue to grow its enrollment, according to associate principal Therese Allin. It is preparing for about 90 students next year, including its biggest freshman class to date.
“Looking into the future, (we’re) hoping to expand long term to about 240,” Allin said.
The project was designed by Tovani Hart Architects of Olympia; Korsmo Construction of Tacoma is the contractor.
Student Katie Sellars said she and her classmates are excited about the expansion. As the student population grows, it’s getting more crowded at assemblies and all-school Masses. Some areas of the school have to serve multiple purposes or aren’t the ideal fit; for example, physics isn’t taught in a science lab because that’s where chemistry classes meet, she said.
But the project isn’t just about handling growing pains, it’s about helping build a stronger foundation for the school’s future, said Sellars, who will be a senior next year.
“We need more space, and we want to expand,” she said. “And we want to bring more people in here.”