New school faces more cuts

Dimond Park facility faces up to 16,000 square feet in reduction

Posted: Monday, December 20, 2004

The Dimond Park high school will have less usable space than planners previously believed, Juneau School District officials said late last week.

They're still figuring out the details, but the reduction will affect space available for students and staff. The school faces the loss of up to 16,000 square feet, based on initial discussions with state education officials, architect Paul Voelckers said.

As points of comparison, the school's library was to be about 7,130 square feet. The science rooms might take up 7,290 feet. A main gym is about 12,000 square feet.

The reduction was triggered by state guidelines for school size when the state reimburses 70 percent of the cost of designing and building new schools, as it is doing for the Dimond Park school.

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Guidelines approved in late 2002 require that space for mechanical equipment be counted as part of a new school's allowable square-footage. Mechanical space, such as for ventilation fans, formerly was counted not at all or at a fraction of its actual size.

The state changed its guidelines to eliminate counting partial space. Instead, the state counts everything at its true size but increased the allowable space per student, said Tim Mearig, an architect with the state Department of Education.

Space used to distribute air still isn't counted, but space that houses mechanical equipment is. Architects and engineers will work in the next two weeks to come up with a plan for the mechanical system that minimizes the space that is counted against the allowable total, said schools Superintendent Peggy Cowan.

The city and school district officials planning the school might meet publicly on Jan. 6 to review the issue, she said.

Planners already were wrestling with how to design a school about 52,000 square feet smaller than the most recent design, which local voters rejected in May. The school approved by voters in October is capped at about 167,000 square feet and will accommodate 840 students.

"The more mechanical space the new regs count, the more pain we'll have in the other space reduction," Voelckers said.

Besides cutting some classrooms and reducing other space, planners were considering several options for the auditorium, main gym and auxiliary gym.

The issue of mechanical space didn't arise under the most-recently planned Dimond Park school because it fell under a different program. The state was to pay back 60 percent of the cost, rather than 70 percent, and the city could have built any size school it wanted.

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