2 high school plans debated

Planners, staff discuss whether to select compact or spread-out floor design

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2000

Architects of the proposed high school at Dimond Park still are wrestling with where to place parking and what the main access road will be. And planners haven't decided on a compact building or one that's spread out.

Some teachers at an architects' presentation Wednesday at Juneau-Douglas High School said they preferred a design in which the gym, performing arts space and two classroom wings formed the sections of a tight X.

JDHS business teacher Chris Carte said teachers liked the density, and the accessibility of one part of the building to the others.

"There are people in this building (JDHS) I do not know, and I've been here 21 years," Carte said.

The other design looks a bit like an old-fashioned skeleton key. It sets two classroom wings off a large hall, like a long street, which leads to a semi-circular area for the commons, administration and visual arts. That piece is joined to a rectangle that holds the auditorium and gym.

Carte thought the message of that design is that the fun areas are separate from the classrooms.

Both designs allow the classrooms, in four blocks of rooms over two stories, to be used in traditional academic departments, or as houses similar to Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.

"That's our goal, that we don't block either method, or something else that people come up with 20 years from now," said Juneau School Board President Mary Becker.

Architects from the Juneau firm Minch Ritter Voelckers and a national firm, Fanning/Howey Associates, solicited comments from teachers in the afternoon and the general public in the evening at Riverbend Elementary School.

Architects will refine the two designs in November, after which a 12-member planning group of city and school district officials will choose the final design for the 1,200-student school.

Design work will continue until the spring, when $2 million in bond proceeds for design will be used up. City officials hope by then to convince the Legislature to partially reimburse the city to build the high school and renovate JDHS. Voters in October 1999 approved a $63 million bond package contingent on getting some state reimbursement.

At the forums Wednesday, architects spoke of juggling the different elements of the site. Much of the land near the Mendenhall River isn't suitable for building because it is a filled former gravel pit. The school would sit in the park's northeast corner, near Riverside Drive.

Meanwhile, Dimond Park already holds Riverbend Elementary and some athletic fields. The city is planning to add a community recreation center, with a swimming pool and gym as yet unfunded. The 195,000-square-foot high school also will have a playing field with a track. All told, the site will have about 900 parking spaces. The city is preparing to request proposals for a study of traffic along all of Riverside Drive, said city architect Catherine Fritz.

Architects have drawn two new access roads into the park, opposite Riverwood and Parkwood drives. They are considering a school bus drop-off directly off a widened Riverside Drive, or perhaps via a road that enters the site.

A big question is still where to place the faculty, visitor and student parking lots.

Some homeowners on Rivercourt Way, which borders the high school site, asked architects to place the main access road and the students' parking lot away from their back yards. They are concerned about noise or vandalism. The tradeoff would be to place a lighted playing field near their homes, Fritz said.

Architects also are concerned about keeping the parking ringed around the site, with playing fields in the center, so students wouldn't have to cross traffic within the park to get to the fields, said architect Travis Miller.

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