Construction on four MMSD schools will begin this spring, following the $317 million referendum approved in fall 2020.
MMSD staff, board members and contractors met on Monday to discuss the technicalities surrounding the upcoming construction. Light construction for four high schools is planned to begin this spring, with heavy construction beginning this summer and carrying through the summer of 2024.
$70 million will be allocated across the four comprehensive high schools for the renovations, according to The Cap Times. The referendum also includes funding for renovations and expansions to Capital High School as well as construction for the new Southside Elementary School.
Abie Khatchadourian, the senior project manager at Eppstein Uhen Architects, said that the renovations are designed to support education and accessibility while respecting the existing architecture.
“While all the schools, in particular the four larger high schools, start at a different point, we took pains to understand the referendum vision, which was that they would endeavor to be improved in a very similar and equitable manner,” Khatchadourian said.
Preparations for heavier construction will begin this spring, starting with work on mechanical, electric and plumbing systems. Aaron Zutz, a project manager at Findorff, says that there will be a phased approach to completing the construction projects in order to minimize disruptions during school hours.
“The scheme includes a prioritization of new spaces to open up square footage to allow students and staff to move throughout the building. We are also looking at where the high-priority spaces are and working to complete those over the summer,” Zutz said.
Zutz noted that, due to the high volume of construction work, the high schools will not be open to the public during the summer.
“Throughout all of this, we are trying to maintain flexibility,” Zutz said. “There will be challenges that come up, there will be adjustments that will need to be made and we will be working closely with building services and administrative teams to minimize any impacts that do result from changes on these projects.”
Among the concerns of the construction process was sustainability. According to Zutz, the reuse and recycling of materials is “definitely something that is of consideration to us.”
Student board member Nama Pandey said that all-gender bathrooms would make schools more welcoming to students.
“I am for the discussion of having just all-gender bathrooms because I think that just makes the environment more inclusive and welcoming for everyone without targeting a group of people or bringing attention to them,” Pandey said.
School board member Ananda Mirilli expressed concerns with student engagement.
“What does it look like to have an intentional communication with our students, or even engage them into some project base where they are using social media to talk about their schools?” Mirilli said.
MMSD Director of Communications Tim LeMonds explained that there will be several options for student engagement during the construction process, including a student-led podcast and a district-wide newspaper. LeMonds also mentioned that the district is “in the process of putting together a plan to reach out to our elected officials and legislatures.”
LeMonds said that MMSD is creating a communication plan to keep the community informed and engaged during the construction process. The plan includes a website that will provide updates on the construction process and building closures.