Group suggests how to fix up JDHS

Posted: Wednesday, June 07, 2000

A citizens' group helping to plan the proposed renovation of Juneau-Douglas High School has recommended refurbishing the interior and renovating the auditorium as the highest priorities.

A general refurbishment would be easy to do, give the building a new feel, and affect a large number of people, some of the group said.

But if there's money left over, the group favored relocating the administrative offices and renovating the food service and commons. Further down the wish list were renovating science labs, gyms and the vocational space.

The group, which also helped plan the proposed new high school, couldn't be sure how much of the $13 million project would be used up by necessary code and accessibility upgrades, roof repairs, or mechanical and electrical upgrades.

Those elements, which will add 20 to 25 years to the building's life, will consume much of the funds, said Joe Mueller, school district facilities manager.

Voters last year approved up to $13 million in bonds for JDHS, along with up to $50 million in bonds for a new high school at Dimond Park. Both projects are contingent on getting some state reimbursement.

Actually, some general refurbishment -- which would spruce up and furnish the classrooms and offices -- and some auditorium upgrades were already expected to be part of the project.

And it may be possible to move the administrative offices to near the front doors without waiting for the bonds. The group wanted people to know where the office is when they enter the building, and they wanted administrators to be able to supervise the commons.

As for the commons, ``it's a pit,'' and the food service is ``appalling,'' said auditorium director Toby Clark. It needs to be improved if only to be equal with the proposed new school, he said.

Other group members, such as librarian Linda Thibodeau, wanted any extra money spent on improvements in the science labs and elsewhere. Education doesn't take place in the commons, she said.

Tim Foss -- a parent, retired teacher and school volunteer -- said the highest priority should be given to creating space for students to work on projects. Right now, they spill out into the hall.

``Every single teacher that I'm aware of assigns projects, and I'm tripping over students in the hall ...'' Foss said.

Not every improvement can be afforded, said planning consultant Bill DeJong. But one of the project's architects, Charles Tyler of Fanning/Howey Associates, said designers may tackle some of the lower priorities as they work on the higher priorities.

``We raised all of these items as very important items,'' said City Architect Catherine Fritz in an interview. ``I hope we can get some of everything.''

Fritz said the issue isn't priorities; it's balance among the needs.

Fanning/Howey and local architects Minch-Ritter-Voelckers expect to produce a variety of conceptual drawings of the JDHS renovations and the new school by fall, when more public workshops will be held.

The city also will hold workshops on specific issues such as safety and security, and the schools' theaters, Fritz said.

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