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BHS wing taking shape despite weather

So far, so good, as contractors and school officials still hope for a fall 2008 opening.

The high school’s new 200 Building will feature a lot of concrete. In the eyes of project manager Nancy Josephson, that’s a beautiful thing.

“I like to think of it as being like silk,” Josephson said. “There are imperfections in it, but that can be beautiful too.”

Roughly seven months since the old wing was torn down, concrete walls, which will provide both supporting and the finished interior surface, now form the outline of the new buildings in the muddy construction site.

According to Josephson, construction is on budget, and still on schedule to open the new commons, library, administrative offices and classrooms in the fall of 2008.

It remains to be seen if the already wet winter weather will delay construction more than has been accounted for.

“We’re going into winter, and that’s really when will make the determination with whether we feel comfortable with the schedule,” Josephson said.

The construction, contracted to Leo Finnegan Construction of Tacoma, has gone smoothly, she said, but excavation has unearthed a few surprises.

One came when crews uncovered concrete footings from the old school building, which had to be dug out. Then a long-forgotten septic tank was discovered, a relic that will cost $12,000 to have demolished.

Still, change orders for the project have remained low thus far, accounting for a 0.2 percent increase from the original $22.67 million budget.

Concrete work has dominated construction so far. All the building’s footings are in place as well as its foundation walls. On the west side, the second floor of the commons is being built, and elsewhere steel beams are being installed.

Work on utilities continues, including the laying of heating and water pipe along with a storm drain system and sewer.

When the work is done, concrete walls reinforced with nearly 1 million pounds of steel will enclose a 70,000 square-foot building designed by Mahlum Architects of Seattle.

Much of the exterior will be lined with brick and some of the interior will be paneled in wood, though the smooth, gray concrete will be exposed in many places.

In a lower section of the building the new commons and cafeteria will seat up to 700 in a stepped, auditorium-style setting. The building will also serve as a cafeteria, a gathering place for students and a venue for community events.

Uphill to the east of the commons a long, narrow building with a gently arched roof will house the library, classrooms including two technology labs and offices for administrators, counselors and other staff. Its eastern elevation will feature large vertical windows to mirror the architectural style of the facing building.

“It’s great to see the building begin to take shape and see how the spaces will work together,” BHS Principal Brent Peterson said. “We’re forging ahead.”

Construction is being watched anxiously by students and staff. When school began this fall, 18 classrooms were relocated to temporary spaces on the high school campus and nearby Commodore Options School.

Classes have been taught in four portable buildings near the stadium and more have been squeezed into spaces in the south and northeast wings of the Commodore building. Dining services moved to a temporary kitchen and cafeteria in the high school’s lower gym.

Peterson said staff and students have dealt with the changes well but the temporary housing and lack of a central gathering place has left school feeling scattered.

“It’s been hard to read the mood of the campus,” he said. “Everyone has the space to do what they need to do, but there isn’t that sense of cohesiveness.”

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