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Phoenix school upgrades on target

Aside from parking challenges, work on the new wing at Phoenix High School, which started in June, should produce few effects on students, faculty or the public during the upcoming school year.

Classes start Sept. 3 for freshman, and Sept. 4 for all other students.

“Parking will be a challenge, for sure. The south parking lot and the old practice field are pretty much unavailable,” said Principal Toby Walker. “We’ve sent communications to families. We are encouraging our students to either walk, ride the bus or carpool to school.”

Rebuilding the high school is budgeted at $48 million, out of a $68 million bond measure passed by Phoenix-Talent School District voters in fall 2017. The new, two-story wing is being constructed south of the current structure. Much of the old building will be demolished, but about a third, including the gym and theater arts area, will be renovated. Other district sites are also being upgraded or expanded.

“There should be very little disruption to the educational environment,” said Walker. Just under 700 students are expected at the high school this fall.

New entryways have been installed on a small, auxiliary gymnasium to replace those on the south side of the building. The main north entrance and the entrance off the bus loop will remain open. Resurfacing of the track will begin in October when work starts to rebuild stands at the football field after the conclusion of the regular home season.

“We will certainly increase our oversight and supervision at drop-off times and pickup times for student safety,” said Walker. The north parking lot, which was usually close to capacity, will still be in use. On certain days the south lot has been up to 75% full, he said. Bus drop-off will use the existing loop outside the school.

“It will be substantially as usual for theater performances and band concerts,” said Walker. Visitors can use the bus loop or main entrances.

District Facilities and Projects Manager Jon McCalip is exploring the possibility of removing a “no parking during school hours” zone on the east side of North Rose Street across from the campus with city officials. Any change would be a temporary measure during construction.

District vehicles usually left in the north parking lot, such as the band and agriculture trailers and student vans, will be moved to other locations, McCalip said.

Work on the high school is a little ahead of schedule at this point, said McCalip. Adroit Construction of Ashland is overseeing work at the high school. Knife River has been handling removal of dirt from the site, and Adroit has coordinated concrete work. Dirt removal should be finished by the start of school, and pouring of foundation concrete commenced last week, with framing to follow.

Bids for finishing the 100,000-square-foot building went out Friday, Aug. 9. Completion of the new building is targeted for December 2020. Except for the gym and theater arts area, the rest of the current school building will be torn down.

A new playground at Orchard Hill Elementary School should be ready to go when school starts, said McCalip. The work will include construction of a new cafeteria, which will occupy the former playground space. Bids for the cafeteria will be sought next month, with work to start in December and completion in August 2020.

Cafeteria enlargement at Talent Middle School is on track to be finished by the time school starts Sept. 4. Outlier Construction of Medford started the work June 17. Middle school security has been enhanced with installation of a vestibule entrance that will require visitors to be buzzed in to the school by staff. The setup is part of a remodel for administration space. The district is getting bids for fencing the fields behind the school to secure the campus during school hours.

Both Phoenix and Talent elementary schools got upgraded fire alarms systems covered by the bond measure. Included is a voice system to inform people of a fire’s location and evacuation sites. The two schools also got new HVAC systems for their cafeterias and gymnasiums.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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