High school renovation is close to completion

School ready to reopen Wednesday following $21 million renovation

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

Juneau-Douglas High School, in the midst of major renovations, should be ready for students when classes start next Wednesday, but some work will continue after school or on the weekends, city and school officials said.

"We'll be operable and substantially complete," city project architect Gary Gillette said of JDHS on Wednesday. "In some cases, there may not be carpet on the floor. They'll just wait for a long weekend, pull out the furniture and carpet it."

JDHS Principal Deb Morse said some classrooms' furnishings haven't been moved in yet, but will be by the start of school. The nurse's office and a computer-assisted drafting room won't be ready until a few days after school starts, but other rooms have been prepared for those functions, she said.

"Nobody's going to miss a beat," Morse said.

Still, to a layman touring the school Wednesday, it looked like a lot of work remained to be done. The library and some second-floor classrooms and a hall weren't finished. (The second floor of the three-story building is the story entered at the front door.)

Erik Lundquist, chairman of the science department, was organizing his expanded chemistry lab Wednesday.

"If they say the building will be ready, I believe them," he said. "But you need time for teachers to get organized. It's taken me weeks to unpack and organize, a couple of hours every day."

Monday is the first day of school for teachers under their contract.

The full-size commercial kitchen is ready, as are the commons, administrators' new offices off the central atrium, the gym with its new lighting, restrooms and a larger balcony, the new counselors' offices off the atrium's balcony, the music rooms, halls and other classrooms.

The renovation, priced at about $21 million so far and partly state-funded, began last summer and required the school to use the adjacent Marie Drake building for offices and classrooms more than in the past. JDHS will continue to use the Drake building for some classrooms, Morse said.

The final phase of the original project extends through the end of December and includes renovating classrooms on the first floor and installing some exterior siding or painting the exterior.

Gillette said that work shouldn't generate much noise during school hours. One or two concrete walls may be demolished.

City and school district officials still are deciding what work will be done with the new $6.3 million funded by bonds that local voters passed this summer. Some of that work could be added to the current renovation contract, held by general contractor Coogan Construction of Juneau, Gillette said. Other work might be put out to bid.

The school district's list of desired projects includes upgrading the parking lots at JDHS, Marie Drake and the Augustus Brown swimming pool; adding a playing field where the state ferry building used to be; and replacing the main gym roof and floor.

Other proposed work includes replacing lockers in the locker room, upgrading the weight room, more work on the building's exterior, a closed-circuit TV security system, further upgrade of the gym's lighting, some mechanical work and buying more furnishings.

The team of city and school district officials planning the JDHS renovation and the Mendenhall Valley high school are scheduled to vote on further JDHS projects and the budget at noon Monday at the district's central office.

Some Assembly members on the team said at a meeting Tuesday they were concerned that a proposal to use $1.7 million freed up by the recent JDHS renovation bonds for the Valley school would shortchange JDHS. They asked for further information from city staff on where the $1.7 million would come from.

Officials have said the $1.7 million comes from the original 1999 bonds for the JDHS renovation and Valley high school. The sum was added to the JDHS project when bids came in higher than expected. Now that voters have added funds for the renovation, they have freed up the $1.7 million to go back to the Valley high school, school district officials said.

Assembly member Jim Powell also said it wasn't clear what the outdoor improvements would be, and if there would be enough money for them.

"When we're done with this project, I want a complete, done project," he said Tuesday. "My concern is: Do we have enough money?"

The planning team also must decide whether to cut something from the additional JDHS work, because the total cost is estimated at $6.68 million, nearly $400,000 more than the budget.

City and school district staff said additional work on the main gym's exterior, costing about $400,000, could be dropped without hurting the project, said city Engineering Director Roger Healy.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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