ASD construction projects on target

The Ashland School District construction projects are on budget and generally on schedule, committee members said.

All major projects are in the design development phase, and construction is expected to begin next spring with the high school. Only minor design changes will be made from now on, project manager Gary DeCock said.

"Barring any delays, we should have most of them going by next summer," he said. Construction is scheduled to end in the spring and summer of 2009.

Ashland High School and Bellview Elementary make up the bulk of the $46.7 million construction project, with $19.8 million earmarked for AHS and $12.8 million for Bellview. The remaining $14.1 million is earmarked for improvements at other Ashland schools.

The designs will come up for approval with the city this fall, but preapproval planning meetings suggest they will be accepted, DeCock said. A guaranteed maximum price for the high school will be issued in early 2008 by Ashland-based Adroit Construction, which will act as construction manager and general contractor throughout the project. To prevent cost overruns with the other projects, cost estimates will be made at every phase, he said.

So far, the only formal project that has been started is lighting updates, which came in $1 million under budget, according to Superintendent Juli Di Chiro. There is no reason to be over budget so far.

"We are on budget because we haven't spent it yet," she said.

Major changes

Most renovations at AHS will focus on the northern building, with a new music room, practice gymnasium, locker rooms and weight room. The current structure housing the gym and weight room was built as a temporary structure and needed to be replaced, DeCock said.

"To put it all in one building makes it easier for supervision but we're also creating more usable space," he said. "We're getting rid of a lot of the chopped up space."

A new entrance off Mountain Street will be built for the main gym, which will also see an increase in seating capacity by 25 percent to 30 percent, he said.

Committee members wanted to place the music building closer to the existing theater and new "black box" theater for rehearsal, but the amount of space required for the music room would have jeopardized the existing structure, DeCock said. A second set of larger musical instruments will be purchased to store near the theater so students don't have to transport them for performances.

"It's not a perfect solution, but it is a very workable solution," he said.

Bellview will see even more changes than the high school with plans to demolish all except the front portion of the school built in the 1920s.

"It's just really worn out and doesn't function well," DeCock said. Several of the classrooms had no windows, and the hallways were full of stairs and steep ramps. The new portion has been designed to feel like a mall, he said, with open spaces and gently sloping ramps.

Outside, the bus-loading zone will be relocated off Siskiyou Boulevard, away from the parent drop-off area to improve safety.

Some of the more innovative designs are the stage that can be used facing either a student commons or the gym, and the media center, which will be open to the main hall.

The libraries of all three elementary schools are being expanded, with storytelling areas and reading nooks along the windows that resemble window seats. Helman will also get a new gym.

Improvements at the middle school will include a new cafeteria and roof.

Going green

One priority of the design committee is to make the renovations as green as possible, DeCock said.

"Some things can be very expensive, and some things can be trade-offs," he said. "In the long range life of the building, it will cost you more to build it, but less to operate it."

Bellview has the greatest potential for green improvements. Some features being considered are sensors that turn off electric lights for maximizing natural light, solar water heating systems for restrooms and digital controls for heating and air conditioning.

School board member Mat Marr said green improvements would contribute to making Bellview "a school that's all about teaching and learning." Sustainable buildings would also reduce operating costs, so more money can go to teachers instead of the light bill, he said.

The committee will consider options such as using more insulation to reduce heating and cooling costs and building with recycled materials at all sites. A school board work session will be held next Wednesday to set sustainability standards.

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