JDHS: Ready for students, open for construction

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002

Classes will start as scheduled Aug. 28 at Juneau-Douglas High School, despite the hollowed-out shells where lockers use to be, exposed ceiling grids and ongoing construction.

As part of a $20 million renovation, the school is getting a new atrium and commons area, lockers, windows, elevator, and communication systems. Upgrades to classrooms and the auditorium also are a part of the work.

The first phase of the project, which is the most intrusive, started in June and will conclude in February. The renovation should be finished by late 2003.

"It's holding school in a construction zone, essentially," city project architect Gary Gillette said during a tour Wednesday. "It's not going to be pretty, but it's going to be functional and it's going to be safe."

The project is within budget and on schedule, Gillette said. Teachers were allowed back today, four days earlier than planned.

Much of the construction now centers on the commons and the second and third floors, where the ghostly concrete innards of the building and piles of rubble are visible. A portion of that area will be demolished for the new atrium.

Such areas of heavy construction will be off-limits to the school's 1,650 students and 130 staff members. Entrances, classrooms and offices have been moved, closed or reconfigured.

"Walls and doors will be shut to keep people out," JDHS Principal Deb Morse said. "There will be limited classes on the third floor and the south end of the second floor. We'll have total access to the first floor."

Navigating JDHS

The Juneau-Douglas High School renovation project is scheduled to be complete by late 2003. Among the noticeable changes this fall:

• The main front entrance to the building will be closed. Visitors should enter through Marie Drake.

• The administrative, counseling, attendance and activities offices, along with some classes, have been moved to the Marie Drake building. The commons and food service will be in the Marie Drake gym.

• Access to school gyms and music classes will be from the outside doors on Glacier Avenue. The gyms and library remain open.

• The auditorium should be ready for public use by March.

• Visitor parking will be available next to the Marie Drake building. No student parking is allowed on the school site. The walkway over Egan Drive will be open.

The front entrance and commons will be closed this fall as work on the new atrium occurs. The library and gyms will be open, while the auditorium will be closed through March. When the second phase of the project starts in February, some newly renovated areas will open as workers move to other areas.

"The second phase will go back up into the third floor and the area that is now open. They'll start renovating those classrooms," Gillette said. "Phase three is more work in the gym, classroom renovations and the shop area. The last phase is finishing up."

The contractor, Coogan Construction, has discussed moving some elements of the project ahead of schedule, although it's too soon to tell if the project will be finished early, Gillette said. At peak this summer, 51 people were working on the renovation, according to Assembly member Don Etheridge.

If construction noise disrupts classes this fall, the contractor will move to a 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. work schedule, Gillette said.

"There are little things every day, but nothing has been insurmountable," he said. "They found (additional) asbestos, but were able to take care of it."

Final air quality tests in asbestos containment areas were taking place this week, according to school district facilities manager Joe Mueller.

"They've already cleared the building and the samples have come back clean," he said. "There's a requirement to do clearance sampling in areas you work in before you take down containment areas."

The changes have affected some elementary classes and programs that used the Marie Drake building between Harborview Elementary and JDHS. Administrative offices and many classes for freshmen will be in Marie Drake. Students will get to the gyms and music classes by going outside to the Glacier Avenue entrance.

The high school has tried to schedule students so they don't have to move back and forth too much, Morse said. Lockers for freshmen and sophomores will be in Marie Drake, while juniors and seniors will have lockers in the main building.

Staff members, parent volunteers, and upperclassmen who are trained to help ease the transition for freshmen will be on hand the first day of school to guide people through the building, Morse said.

In one unexpected discovery, workers found an original cornerstone from 1956 behind a newer wall in the administrative offices, Gillette said. When workers pulled it out, they found a metal box behind it, he said.

The box, thought to be a time capsule, is now locked in a safe and will be opened at an upcoming staff meeting, Morse said. "We'll invite people and make it a big deal," she said. "We don't know what's in there."

More information about the renovation project is available online at www.jsd.k12.ak.us/jdhs/reno/.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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