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Phoenix High may get major makeover

PHOENIX — Phoenix High School’s maintenance staff has to maintain 87 heats pumps to control the building’s climate while a science teacher lacks space and lab furnishings for her students. Those conditions would change if Phoenix-Talent School District voters approve a $68 million bond measure in a Nov. 7 election.

Under the proposal Phoenix High School would get $48.3 million in work, which would see about two-thirds of the current building demolished. The district's other four schools would get a combine $22.9 million to deal with deferred maintenance, seismic upgrades, facilities security and other issues.

A state School Capital Improvement Matching Grant of $4 million secured by the district would be applied directly against the projected $72 million costs, bringing down the bond amount to $68 million. The district created a 30-year master plan for its buildings, one criterion for the grant.

“The last time the high school was remodeled was 1988,” said School Board member Sara Crawford. "What has happened with different remodels is some of the outside classrooms were connected to each other. We have halls that don’t go anywhere. We have a significant amount of rooms without windows.”

The current gym and theater would remain because they're sound, but the rest of the building would be taken down under proposed plans. Replacements would include a two-story, south-facing wing with classrooms and another wing to accommodate the school’s career and technical education class spaces, FFA programs and the arts.

Work at the high school wouldn’t begin until 2020 and would be done in phases so that students could still attend classes there. The $4 million state grant will allow design work to begin if the measure passes. But the architect will first go to the community for involvement with the design, said Crawford.

Crawford is part of the Back the Bond 2017 political action committee formed to promote the measure. The group has a Facebook page and will be at school open houses and homecoming events to explain the measure. District employees can provide information on the measure, but cannot advocate for a "yes” vote, but board members can.

The rate of the 30-year assessment is $1.49 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a property assessed at $200,000 would pay an additional $298 annually in property taxes if the measure passes (rate corrected from previous version).

Hillary Walkup teaches classes in animal and plant sciences. She said current facilities lack both space and appropriate furnishings. Ideally students would work in teams of four but that’s not possible with classroom configurations and crowding, she said

“We don’t necessarily have science tables in our classrooms so that the students aren’t getting that experience and problem-solving skills,” said Walkup. “We just don't have the right kind of space. The building is kind of pieced together weird.”

Since January, Jon McCalip, director of facilities and special projects, has had staff tracking time spent on maintaining the HVAC system with all its heats pumps.

“We’ve spent over 750 hours,” said McCalip. "Every filter change takes about three days for two guys." He noted an old cooling tank in the system broke down last year and needed to be repaired with fabricated parts at a cost of $12,000.

A new boiler for the high school would be 98 percent efficient in converting fuel to heat, said McCalip. The current boiler is about 67 to 70 percent efficient. New equipment would cut down on the need to call in outside vendors to perform work, said McCalip.

Phoenix High has more than 32 exterior doors and students sometimes block those open so classmates can get in the building, said McCalip. There would be no way to quickly lock down the building in the event of an emergency such as an active shooter situation. The new school would have one main entrance and an electric door system that would allow egress if needed

Elsewhere in the district, heating and air conditioning systems would be replaced at all schools. All three elementary schools would have their roofs replaced. New lighting would be installed and areas that don’t conform to ADA standards would improved. Improvements would be made to cafeterias at Talent Middle School and Orchard Hill Elementary School.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

A proposed $68 million bond measure would primarily be use for a Phoenix High School renovation. A possible example of the outcome is shown in this rendering. [Submitted art]