Change is coming soon to many schools

March 22, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Carpenter Alfredo Arreola vacuums dust as he grinds and finishes concrete steps in the seating area of Issaquah High School’s new Performing Arts Center. By Greg Farrar

The voter-approved $241.8 million construction bond from 2006 is in full swing, sending two-story buildings high into the sky and installing sewer systems deep into the ground.

Several schools across the Issaquah School District are receiving money for construction updates or remodels. Four projects are slated to begin construction June 20, after school gets out:

• Briarwood Elementary School will get a new building, slated for completion in fall 2012.

• Liberty High School will undergo a partial modernization and expansion, with most areas complete by August 2012, and final completion by spring 2013.

• Maywood Middle School will be modernized and expanded with new classrooms and science labs with completion in August 2012.

• Challenger Elementary School will be modernized with a relocated central office, improved heating and air controls and separate bus and car traffic areas.

Issaquah High School’s new building is almost complete. As of Jan. 31, the district had spent $80.6 million on the project, which has a budget of $94.9 million.

The main building, complete with classrooms, commons and science labs, opened this past fall, but the Performing Arts Center, the wing housing the music, photography, theater, art and woodshop rooms, is still under construction.

Until the new center opens, the fine arts community is using the old building for classroom space.

“It’s thrilling to watch it go up,” Issaquah High School drama director Holly Whiting said. “The fine arts people are still in the old section of the building. It’s been nicknamed ‘District 9,’” after the slums where aliens were forced to live in a science fiction movie.

Once the center is complete, the Issaquah High drama program can return home; for the past three years its students have used the stage at Skyline for their plays and musicals. Liberty will face the same challenge next year when its stage is torn down for the remodel. Liberty drama teacher Katherine Klekas said she is trying to book her students’ shows at other theaters in the meantime.

“We’re going to be in a difficult transition and then we’ll be in a beautiful new theater,” she said.

Southside sewer system

Three schools in the southern part of the district will get two new sewer systems.

Maywood Middle School will get an upgrade from its septic system. With septic systems, the effluent — the liquid wastewater — flows out of the septic tank and is absorbed into the ground, while the solids are digested within the septic tank.

Maywood’s septic tank is at capacity, and since the school is expanding, district administrators decided to give it a new sewer system instead of a larger septic tank.

“We’re going to connect it to the sewer, which is a better long-term solution and a better environmental solution,” district Director of Capital Projects Steve Crawford said. Then, “it goes into the municipal sewer system and gets treated.”

Briarwood Elementary School’s sewer system will connect to Liberty. Previously, Liberty had a holding tank that needed to be pumped out daily, or as needed.

“The district has to have one of our maintenance people pump it out, drive the truck down to the disposal system and empty the truck out,” Crawford said.

After the sewage system update, Liberty will also be on the municipal system. The $1.2 million sewer system project, paid for by the 2006 bond, is slated to begin in May and end in early 2012.

Issaquah High School nearly complete

Issaquah High School students can still hear the roar of construction as workers finish the Performing Arts Center next door, but soon their patience will be rewarded with a spacious new facility.

After construction workers finished the main building this summer, they installed a temporary wall between it and the center. Once the center is complete, the wall will be removed, connecting the two and nearly doubling the length of the commons.

The center has abundant space for theater storage, music practice rooms and a green room where actors can change. The theater has an orchestra pit, a three-fourths fly zone for props kept above the stage space, a movie screen, sound system, catwalks and seats 600 people.

Workers are at the sheetrock stage of finishing the theater. Eventually, it will have wood paneling.

“It’s set up as a theater instead of a cafeteria that happens to have a stage,” district Construction Coordinator Royce Nourigat said.

Students can also perform in the new black box theater, a room large enough to seat 100 people.

“The excitement is palpable,” Whiting said. “We’re giddy with the prospect of getting in there.”

The parking lot will grow from the 416 spaces required during construction to 499 spaces, Nourigat said. This spring, workers expect to finish the new bus loop. This summer, construction crews will install a stoplight at the entrance to the parking lot near Clark Elementary School.

The center also allows more space for its classes. Before, the wood shop and material science rooms shared space, but now they each have their own rooms and outdoor patios for large, noxious smelling projects. Large windows adorn each room in the center, allowing natural light to filter in even on a cloudy day.

During the design process, teachers worked with the architect, sharing their ideas for the new building. Over-the-top ideas were politely reframed into practical ones — after all, the district has to keep consistency among its three main high schools.

The new Issaquah High is also environmentally friendlier than its predecessor. It has more insulation, gas boilers instead of electric heaters and double-paned instead of single-paned windows.

“I’ve worked on elementary and middle schools and the ninth-grade campus and this is by far the most complicated thing I’ve worked on so far,” Nourigat said.

Tiger Mountain Community High School

Though not part of the 2006 bond, the kitchen and commons at Tiger Mountain Community High School are also under construction.

In fall 2009, a leaking water heater caused black mold growth in the kitchen’s floors and walls. Insurance paid for most of the repairs, and district administrators agreed to remodel the kitchen and commons to accommodate Tiger Mountain’s culinary arts class.

That remodel is ongoing, but Crawford said he planned to have it done when students return from spring break in April.

The construction went on hiatus when a plumbing inspector from the city of Issaquah asked the district to buy a building permit.

Because the building had already existed before the remodel, district administrators did not initially apply for a permit, but they did at the request of the city, paying $2,460, Crawford said.

The district needed the permit because workers had redone some wall finishes, meaning they needed to be inspected for proper fire code, according to Lisa Laine, senior permit technician at the Issaquah Permit Center.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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