Archive for Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Construction update: Schools on the rise

Construction on 2 buildings slated to end by December

June 7, 2006

Construction officials at Tonganoxie High School literally have done tons of work on renovations to the school.

Workers with Turner Construction, using a 150-ton capacity crane, positioned 8-foot concrete pieces weighing as much as 35 tons each to form the shell of the high school's new auditorium.

The auditorium is one of many signs of continued construction at the high school and new middle school that is being funded through the $25.3 million bond issue district voters passed in November 2004.

Currently, the massive auditorium is an empty shell. In the coming months, though, it will transform into a performance hall. When finished, the auditorium will seat about 500. And several "Sheetrock clouds" will be suspended overhead. That means the auditorium is "going to look very 21st century, very modern," project superintendent Sam Gibbs said last week.

"It's going to be very slick," Gibbs said.

The auditorium stands to the west of the existing high school. An entrance into the new addition is about 17 feet north of the auditorium entrance. Gibbs said people can enter the school through that entrance either for performances in the auditorium or games in the gymnasium, just to the east of the auditorium. A concession stand also will be constructed northwest of the auditorium.

The gymnasium is receiving a facelift as part of the construction project. Much of the existing north wall of the gymnasium has been taken out. And a new wall, which is flush with the wall in front of the auditorium, has been constructed.

Inside, on the gymnasium's north side, a foundation for new bleachers is taking shape. Previously, the gym had balcony seating on the east, south and west sides. When renovations are complete, the bleachers will overlook the court on all four sides.

The basketball floor, meanwhile, will increase in length from 82 feet to about 84 feet, making it a regulation court. Above the court, a sprinkler system has been installed, along with brackets for storing basketball goals and volleyball equipment. Gibbs said installation of the new floor should begin about July 10. Acme Floor Co., Shawnee, will install the floor. Acme also recently installed the floor in Allen Fieldhouse on the Kansas University campus.

Where the basketball floor once stood intact, pieces of equipment dot the bare floor. In one area, many of the letters that once were displayed near the school's main entrance that spelled "TONGANOXIE HIGH SCHOOL" now lie on the floor in a jumbled pile. Outside, the letters "T-O-N-G-A-N" still are affixed to the school.

However, they also will be taken down as the new wall that fronts the gymnasium and the auditorium will extend to the east in front of the main entrance.

The area between the current main entrance and the new wall will serve as a vestibule, Gibbs said.

As the new auditorium continues to take shape, the original auditorium, to the east of the gymnasium, is losing its identity.

Seating has been taken out, and the slanted floor is being leveled in the process of converting the former auditorium into lecture halls.

Also included in the renovations are new boys and girls locker rooms between the gymnasium and the new auditorium, as well as a wrestling room above the locker rooms. New band and vocal rooms are being constructed near the new auditorium.

Behind the auditorium stands the trades building, a 20,000-square-foot area that will be the new home to woodworking, vocational agriculture and auto mechanics classes.

Overall, the high school project consists of about 73,000 square feet -- 60,000 in new construction and 13,000 in renovations. The entire project at the high school should wrap up by December, officials said.

Middle school

Blueberry, Land of Liberty, Chelsea Gray and Audubon Russet Terre Cotte.

These are some of the colors being used to paint interior areas of the school district's new 95,000-square-foot middle school, which eventually will house fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Lighter shades of blue and red will be prevalent throughout the school halls when it is completed.

The project is roughly 65 percent finished, project superintendent Neil Karlstrom said last week. He said the remaining work involves completing the interior.

With inside work, weather isn't as much of a factor as when construction takes place outdoors. And, with the cooling system installed, it makes for a more comfortable environment.

"Everybody likes to be on a project at this stage," he said with a laugh.

Each day, between 45 and 55 workers are at the middle school, Karlstrom said.

Right now, the interior still looks fairly bare. However, upon walking through the school, one can see how much progress has been made, as rooms have taken shape. Throughout the building, Sheetrock has been installed. And, Karlstrom said, in the next six weeks, "it's going to look a whole lot different."

Classrooms throughout the school measure 32-foot-by-26-foot. Each wing will have its own science room, while the grades will share band, music, language arts media and family and consumer sciences rooms.

In each wing is a display case for each grade.

And, near the school's main entrance, is a larger display case. Beyond it is the commons area.

The middle school should be completed by November.

Work continues on the gymnasium, which will have six rows of bleachers along both baselines.

Next week, the gymnasium floor is slated for installation, Karlstrom said.

The superintendent, who has worked in construction for 38 years throughout the Midwest, said the project has gone well.

"People have been really super to work with, work around, or talk to," Karlstrom said of Tonganoxie.

Karlstrom, who lives in Lenexa, appreciates the commute away from the city.

"It sure beats working in downtown Kansas City," Karlstrom said.

Turner Construction eventually will begin work on renovations to the elementary school.

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