Construction crews clear out as staff, students return to school

September 4, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Construction continues on the performing arts center at Liberty High School. By Greg Farrar

It’s official. The new school year is here.

“It’s always exciting,” Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said. “The beginning of the school year is the culmination of a lot of work.”

That work includes the hiring and training of about 130 new Issaquah School District hires.

“For every one of those,” Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said, “there are dozens of applicants, screenings, interviews.”

Thiele explained that the process of bulking up staff numbers for the following year actually starts in the spring as things like retirement and career changes free up positions.

One of the new hires is Melissa Madsen. The Western Washington native is taking over for Diane Roth, who recently retired from her position as assistant director of special services.

“I’m thrilled to be back on the west side and getting my family settled here,” said Madsen, who was previously working and living in Yakima. “This has been a wonderful transition for me.”

The start of the school year also means bringing to fruition several construction projects, including the completion of major builds at Briarwood Elementary and Maywood Middle.

“So much of our new construction work is reaching completion now,” school board member Chad Magendanz said. “It really is spectacular.”

Challenger Elementary School just got a facelift. The $2.3 million renovation includes a reconfigured library, more administrative space, an updated atrium and a remodeled front entrance.

Since last summer, a brand new Briarwood has been going up next to the old one. With 28 classrooms, a Mother Nature-friendly design that aims to cut energy costs and a low-slope roof at the entry to reflect the one at the original building, the new Briarwood is open for business.

To get it ready for students, construction crews worked this summer to remove trees, install siding, pave a new entry drive and demolish the old school building. Ornamental metal railing panels with cutouts of leaf silhouettes were erected in the upper floor of the two-story library. Office staff moved into the new building in August and by month’s end incoming fifth-grade students were leading tours of their school.

The whole project ran $24.1 million. Originally budgeted at $25.1 million, Jake Kuper, chief of finance and operations, said the final bill may increase a little as a few things close out.

“There’s always some touch up and things of that nature that still need to be done,” he said.

A few pieces of playground equipment are still on back order, Kuper added, but should arrive in a few weeks.

With the exception of a few final touches to the interior, the major overhaul of Maywood Middle School has come to an end. The building has been the subject of a modernization and expansion project that includes two new science labs, a larger library and covered walkways. The school’s office area was moved to a more central and up-front location and four new classrooms were added.

When the Maywood project first got its legs in the 2006 voter-approved bond package it was set at $10.5 million. As it wraps up, the construction bill totals about $13.8 million. The 31 percent cost increase is not a surprise cost over-run, Kuper explained, but was on purpose. In a nutshell, he said, the district used savings from construction at Skyline and Issaquah high schools, due to a favorable bid market, to ramp up the vision for other projects, like Maywood.

Some of the savings from Skyline and Issaquah high schools was also passed on to Phase 1 of the Liberty High School project, which included new science labs that have been in use since January 2011. Phase 1 also entails a new performing arts center and preliminary work for the project’s second and third phases. Originally slated for completion this summer, Phase 1 is expected to wrap up in November, Kuper said.

Construction for Phase 2, funded by the $219.1 million bond that was passed by voters in April, began in July and is set to continue through December 2013. The third and final phase will see the building of a new stadium and is expected to reach completion in June 2015. The entire project, including the cost of designs, permits, construction and furniture, is expected to cost $44.6 million.

All the while, work will continue throughout the school year at Liberty.

“It’s a fairly common practice for us to have students on site while there is construction,” Kuper said, pointing to recent builds at Skyline and Issaquah high schools as examples. “It’s a plan and strategy we used effectively.”

Construction areas are very defined and especially noisy jobs are scheduled to take place outside of school hours,” he said.

“Steve Crawford and his crew do a great job of creating safe walking paths,” Thiele said about the district’s director of capital projects. “Learning is still happening out there, and it’s exciting for the kids to see a new school come up around them.”

Bookmark and Share
Other Stories of Interest: , , , , , , ,


Got something to say?

Before you comment, please note:

  • These comments are moderated.
  • Comments should be relevant to the topic at hand and contribute to its discussion.
  • Personal attacks and/or excessive profanity will not be tolerated and such comments will not be approved.
  • This is not your personal chat room or forum, so please stay on topic.