The design of the new South Medford High School at Columbus and Cunningham avenues has been finalized, pending city approval.

The design of the new South Medford High School at Columbus and Cunningham avenues has been finalized, pending city approval.

The drawings by Seattle-based Mahlum Architects were displayed Monday at an informational meeting, where neighbors were invited to give feedback about the plans.

With a budget of $82 million, the new campus replaces the existing South Medford High School built in 1931 at 815 S. Oakdale Ave.

Construction is slated to begin in the summer and wrap up two years later.

The two-story school of masonry and metal will sit on 38 acres at 1551 Cunningham Ave. At 255,000 square feet, it will have a capacity for about 2,000 students. Currently, about 1,900 are enrolled at South Medford, which has about 218,000 square feet.

An open commons will tie together two gymnasiums, a black box theater with seating for 450, a large-scale production kitchen and an administrative office centrally positioned for better supervision.

The new commons is designed as a dual-purpose space serving as cafeteria and lobby for the gymnasiums and theater. The commons is designed to be nearly 7,000 square feet, about 2,700 square feet larger than the present cafeteria.

The school will include 85 classrooms, about seven more than the current campus. The existing classrooms range from 775 to 900 square feet. The new classrooms will range from 870 to 900 square feet, except for art and science classes. Science rooms will increase from a range of 1,100 to 1,250 square feet at the current campus to 1,450 to 1,500 at the new campus. Art rooms will expand in size from about 1,200 square feet to nearly 2,000.

Each classroom will have natural light from a window or skylight.

"What we've learned is appropriate lighting aids in learning and in some cases even increases test scores," said Butch Reifert, a Mahlum architect. A 1999 study by the Heschong Mahone Group Inc. showed a relationship between natural daylight and students' performance on standardized math and reading tests.

By using natural light from the north and the south, the school should be able to save money on lighting and heating, Reifert said.

The theater is smaller than South Medford's existing theater, which can accommodate 1,000 people.

Two gymnasiums will be constructed at the southeast end of the structure. The present high school has three gyms, which will continue to be used for school athletic competitions and also will be rented out for community events.

Escalating construction and material costs have plagued the school district's $189 million bond package, earmarked for projects at 18 schools. The budget for South Medford climbed by more than $17 million from original estimates in the November 2006 bond measure.

District officials have identified items that could be trimmed from the South Medford project to keep it on budget, should prices spike above the district's contingency fund. Three baseball fields and six tennis courts would be the first to go, but they could be built later under that scenario.

Also planned for the site is a football field and track. (Football games, however, will continue to be played at Spiegelberg Stadium at South Oakdale). Architects recently relocated the football field from the southwest corner to the center of the property to diffuse noise and light, which could affect surrounding neighbors.

A parking lot was removed from the back of the gymnasium after neighbors along Warren Avenue complained that it would cause noise and traffic on their street.

"We are going to have an increase in traffic no matter what," said Warren Avenue resident Lynn Skalandis. "Not everybody is going to be happy."

A traffic impact study by Eugene-based JRH & Associates has not yet been completed.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or