Valley school design chosen

Site work could begin this summer, with new high school opening in Aug. 2008

Posted: Friday, March 11, 2005

Juneau's high school at Dimond Park will have two classroom wings that extend from an atrium, a long commons that runs beside walls of glass, and a box-like space to hold the gyms, auditorium, and art and music rooms.

The city and Juneau School District officials planning the school approved the conceptual design Thursday. The construction costs will be estimated by late March.

Officials hope to begin site work this summer, with the building's construction to follow next spring. The school could open in August 2008. It will cost $53 million, with 70 percent of that covered by the state.

Juneau School Board President Mary Becker praised the architects for retaining much of the design for the school as originally planned a few years ago. A successful voters' initiative last summer, just before construction was to start, forced planners to reduce the school in size and cost.

"Everything that's right about the previous plan, we were able to keep, but it's a smaller package," said Chuck Tyler, an architect with the national firm of Fanning/Howey Associates, which is consulting with local architects Minch Ritter Voelckers.

The two-story classroom wings are designed to allow for various ways of organizing the school. For example, they could be configured as four "houses," or by academic department, or with a separate space for freshmen, Tyler said.

More classrooms can be added to the end of the wings in the future. In the school's current form, at 167,000 square feet, it will accommodate about 840 students.

The library-media center is on the second floor, with views of the Mendenhall Glacier.

The school has a main gym and a small auxiliary gym. The latter will suit volleyball and wrestling, but not basketball. The design provides space on the site for its expansion.

The school has been placed so the gyms and locker rooms are nearest the site of a proposed community center that could include a gym and a swimming pool.

The school's main entrance faces Dimond Park's softball fields. The classroom wings stretch toward the Mendenhall River.

The commons can seat 400 students. The auditorium will have retractable seating over a flat floor. When the space isn't used as an auditorium, it can hold dances and events such as parent-teacher conferences, said architect Paul Voelckers. It won't be needed as a cafeteria, he said.

The music rooms will be near the auditorium, and the visual-art rooms will face the auditorium.

But because voters approved a smaller school, there's no room for a designated drama classroom. The school will have to create a schedule that leaves a room available for drama classes.

When the school is filled to capacity, the stage will have to serve as a drama classroom, Superintendent Peggy Cowan said.

The elongated commons, which will stretch past the main gym and the auditorium, will have several exits, making it easier for a large number of people to leave the building after events.

The long commons, which will have a concession stand at its midpoint, also can be used as a lobby for simultaneous events in the gym and auditorium.

Creating a commons in that shape, however, meant placing the kitchen under the library. The architects said it would be possible to mask noise from the kitchen. Voelckers said the design raised "significant but solvable" technical issues.

The planners have met with the Juneau-Douglas High School staff about the various designs that were being considered. They will continue to talk with the staff about the final design in a series of meetings at 2:30 p.m. on Thursdays starting March 31, said Deb Morse, the district's facilities coordinator. The public is welcome, she said.

The district also plans to put the selected design on its Web site, along with information about upcoming meetings open to the public.

• Eric Fry can be reached at

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