Two major school renovation projects are under way in the Mid-Columbia.
Work has started on the remodel of Sunset View Elementary School in Kennewick and bids are coming in this week for the remodel of Robert L. Olds Junior High School in Connell.
Matching money for the two projects -- nearly $6.4 million for Olds Junior High and close to $7.4 million for Sunset View -- was released last week, state officials announced.
The modifications to the Kennewick elementary are part of a series of projects paid for by a bond passed in 2009 and state matching money.
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Kennewick voters passed a $68 million bond in May 2009. It is paying for the gradual renovation of four elementary schools -- one per year -- and has paid for the construction of Cottonwood Elementary in the Badger Canyon area.
Renovation of a fifth elementary -- Lincoln -- will be undertaken if all state matching dollars promised for the bond come through.
Although the money sent to Kennewick from the state this past week is earmarked for Sunset View, the school district has done its financial planning for the series of projects differently, said Doug Carl, director of capital projects.
It had enough money in the bond to cover the most urgent projects -- building Cottonwood and renovating Canyon View, Southgate, Sunset View and Cascade elementaries, in that order.
School officials knew to be cautious with their expectations of state money two years ago, Carl said.
With the first three projects finished, students from Sunset View will go to class in the Fruitland Building near Lampson Stadium this coming school year, much like those from Canyon View and Southgate did in the last two years.
Workers just started gutting 31-year-old Sunset View, Carl said.
The concrete shell will be left standing, but all inside walls and all fixtures, plumbing, electrical and other cabling inside the school will be replaced.
Contractors also will turn the current gym into a multi-purpose room and build a new gym on the northeast corner of the school building, Carl said.
Classrooms will be slightly larger after the remodel, but the number of students planned to go to the school won't increase. "The goal is not to increase the capacity," Carl said. "It's to better accommodate what we do with the kids."
The school will look "dramatically different" than it did before, Carl said.
Similar to what happened at Canyon View, a large awning will spread across the school entrance and colored concrete blocks will change the look of the facade.
The remodel is expected to cost $7.6 million before tax, Carl said. To save money, the district is using identical remodel plans for all of its elementary schools.
Southgate was just completed and will welcome its students back this fall. Construction at Sunset View is expected to be completed a year from now.
In Connell, middle school students will take their classes at the old elementary school this coming year while Olds Junior High has a complete renovation, said Superintendent Gregg Taylor.
The district just completed construction of a new elementary school.
The middle school will be modernized throughout, from plumbing to electrical to classroom designs, Taylor said. It will get a new gym and new locker rooms, and parking lots will be added north of the school.
The remodel is expected to cost $11.5 million.
The district also will add four classrooms and other improvements to its high school. Costs for this phase of the project are to be determined, pending bids, Taylor said.
The entire school complex in Connell will look "less institutional" after the remodel, he said.
The middle school will be finished by next summer. The remaining work might take until about November 2012, Taylor said.
-- Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org