Construction of new valley high school begins

Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Falcons' nest has begun construction.

The Juneau School District and city officials celebrated the official beginning of construction of a new high school and future home of the Falcons on Wednesday afternoon in the Mendenhall Valley.

Site preparation, which cost nearly $4.7 million, has been completed and construction began with the excavation of an auditorium pit Wednesday.

School Board member Mary Becker said it is a big step for the community to be building another high school.

"It really shows a commitment of this community that we are going to grow and we're committed to our students and making sure they have the very best places to go to school," Becker said.

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Construction of the 166,000-square-foot, $47 million school is a significant undertaking for Juneau, said Roger Healy, city engineering director.

"In terms of the city project, this is our largest city project ever," he said.

Once the foundation is poured, the building will begin to take shape as the contractors begin the steel work, he said.

Superintendent Peggy Cowan said there is still a lot of work to do between laying the foundation and welcoming students and teachers into the classrooms.

"This coming year will be a big year in planning," she said. "We're going to have a lot of community meetings - everything from the program to the boundary, the activities and working with the community to have three high schools."

Becker said the district will hire a facilitator to help conduct forums and meetings with the community.

"We do have a lot of decisions to make," she said.

Later this school year, the district will begin the search for the school's first principal to help create the programming for the school. Cowan said additional staff also will be hired prior to the opening bell in the fall of 2008 and some teachers will be moving from Juneau-Douglas High School to the new valley site.

"The faculty will pretty much be split in half, as the students will," Cowan said.

Deborah Morse, coordinator of facilities planning for the district, said the school will open in August of 2008 with a capacity of 838 students. She said it eventually will be able to accommodate 1,000 students.

"We're now in the building phase and you're going to be seeing walls and foundation going up and it's going to be a beautiful facility," Morse said.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford, who attended the ceremony, said the project is important to Juneau's future.

"It's a big step in our community," he said. "If you believe that our community is going to grow and continue to move forward and expand, then this is a great thing for Juneau and our kids."

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