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Phoenix High renovation near the finish line

Phoenix High School employees are starting to see what $48 million can buy. Soon, students will, too.

The Phoenix High School renovation, which represents $48 million of the $68 million bond measure Phoenix-Talent School District voters passed in 2017, is ready to be furnished and will be celebrated with a COVID-19-style ceremony in January, according to schools Superintendent Brent Barry.

Barry said Phoenix High staffers started packing up boxes and moving them over this week, and furniture for the new building is scheduled to arrive Tuesday.

“It’ll take a couple weeks to get all that in place with all new furniture and desks — we outfitted the whole interior,” Barry said.

Barry added that the district plans to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony, either in person but socially distanced or via Zoom, on the first day back from winter break, Jan. 4.

The massive project, which was overseen by HMK Company, includes a new 100,000-square-foot, two-story wing at the high school, a weight room, an 800-square-foot veterinarian technology building, a 3,600-square-foot greenhouse, along with major renovations and seismic reinforcements, according to Phoenix-Talent School District Facilities and Projects Manager Jon McCalip. Also, the existing agricultural building will become the new facility maintenance space.

Barry has walked through the new building and says it’s a gorgeous facility.

“It’s been so cool to see the progression,” he said. “In our old high school, 70% of our rooms did not have windows. This has a ton of natural light, flexible seating and spacing and areas for kids to sit and socialize, wide hallways. The CTE (career and technical education) buildings and programs and facilities are absolutely phenomenal.

“It has a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen for a class of 25 to 30 culinary arts students. Our auto shop is just amazing — it has six different bays, metal fabrication.”

Barry said the district also included a construction building to the renovation to give its students a leg up on possible trade career development. Three construction classes are already being offered, he added.

Technically, the new high school consists of four buildings but it looks like one common building.

Barry also touted the technological upgrades at the new high school, which includes 42 Promethian touch screens. Essentially large tablets, the monitors are each 85 inches measured diagonally, and will be used in the CTE classrooms, academic wings and “collaboration” rooms.

“And our science classrooms are just really well designed for the specific sciences — chemistry and physics,” he said. “The labs are awesome; flexible seating.”

The high school’s gym renovation is next on the docket and will be done in stages, but the entire project is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2021-22 school year next fall.

Regarding other bonded upgrades throughout the district, Barry said, the cafeteria at Orchard Hill Elementary is complete, as is the HVAC overhaul at Talent Middle School.

At Orchard Hill, where Barry served as principal for six years, the cafeteria renovation will be, says Barry, a godsend for the school’s schedule-makers who struggled for years to figure out ways to account for an undersized cafeteria.

“We had six lunch breaks (at Orchard Hill),” he said. “We could only fit one grade level into the cafeteria at a time.”

Overall, he said, the upgrades will benefit students and staffers immensely. He thanked the voters for that, and also credited local firefighters who made a stand at the high school during the Almeda fire Sept. 8 to make sure the new building wouldn’t be reduced to cinders before a single student walked its halls.

“Oh, my gosh, listening to the scanner that night when it was cruising up Cheryl (Lane), I was just like, ‘Oh, my goodness,’” Barry said. “I drove in that (next) morning and talked to a firefighter and I didn’t know it at that time — there were so many rumors going around — but I said, ‘Hey, quick question about the high school.’ And he had tears in his eyes and said, ‘We saved it.’ It was a pretty emotional time.”

Mail Tribune education reporter Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

The new entrance to the addition of Phoenix High School nearing completion. (Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune)