Liberty remodel plan changes

September 2, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Though they already bid their theater a tearful goodbye, Liberty High School’s Patriot Players will have another year to use the stage in spite of the school’s remodel.

Liberty’s remodel is divided into two phases. Phase one is being paid for by the voter-approved 2006 Issaquah School District bond, and will last through summer 2012. Phase two will proceed if at least 60 percent of voters approve a proposed spring 2012 bond.

District administrators have recently changed what projects will happen in each phase.

Even with the delays to remodeling certain areas, such as the commons, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said the changes show the district’s commitment to remodeling Liberty the right way.

“We want the people to see that, yes we are putting our money where we said we were going to,” he said. “It may not have been in the exact time frame we wanted, but it’s getting there.”

In light of complaints that the south end of the district was getting the short shrift, he added, “Every part of our district is important to us, that’s the message.”


Changes to phase one

Originally, administrators had planned to tear down the existing fine arts wing during phase one construction, but they changed their minds after weighing several factors.

When students return to Liberty this fall, they’ll see the in-progress construction of the new performing arts center, complete with a new 550-seat auditorium; new orchestra, choral and band rooms; new green room; new dressing rooms; a video production lab and a black box theater.

“Doing the expanded performing arts center will ensure that Liberty’s facilities are going to be consistent with Issaquah High and Skyline,” district Director of Capital Projects Steve Crawford said.

The construction will be near the building’s entrance. The contractor will use the school’s tennis courts, meaning students will have to play tennis off-site until that construction is done.

Meanwhile, the current fine arts center will remain standing, instead of being torn down right away.

“It will remain available for use until the new facility is complete,” Crawford said.

With the old fine arts center still available, the music and drama departments will not have to relocate to portable classrooms. If the spring 2012 bond passes and phase two work begins on classrooms, then Liberty students will use the old fine arts center space for rooms.

Liberty drama teacher Katherine Klekas said she felt “fabulous” that she and her drama students wouldn’t be stageless next year. However, she said she and others are worried that voters might not approve the 2012 bond, meaning phase two could be put on hold indefinitely.

“I think the big fear around here is that if the bond doesn’t pass, we’ll only get a partial remodel,” she said. “We’ll get a new performing arts center, but the rest of the school is going to be in need of repair.”


New commons and classrooms

The old phase one and two plans have several more changes.

The commons, first slated as part of phase one, has also moved to phase two.

Originally, the bond stated phase one would include an expanded auditorium. Then, construction workers would have expanded the commons into the seating area of the old auditorium, Crawford said.

Under the old plan, the library would have acted as a temporary commons. Administrators decided later that this would have impaired daily use of the library and its surrounding classrooms, and they agreed to keep the commons until the end of phase two.

If the 2012 bond is passed, construction workers will relocate the kitchen and rebuild the commons. That way, students will enter the school through the Performing Arts Center, which will lead into the new commons.

“The best way to address the commons issue is to rebuild it, not just remodel it,” Crawford said.

He also cleared up some confusion about new classrooms. Many of Liberty’s classrooms have small windows, or no windows at all. If the 2012 bond is passed and phase two is approved, many of Liberty’s classrooms would be remodeled with larger windows. The new windows would improve ventilation, improve the teaching environment and increase daylight, which could reduce costs for classroom lighting.

In addition to remodeling most rooms, Liberty would also get eight new classrooms. According to the wording in the 2006 bond, Liberty was slated to receive 10 new classrooms, but some of those “new” rooms are science room conversions.

“They were never going to add up with a net of 10 new classrooms,” Crawford said.

Instead, Liberty will get eight new classrooms, and two science rooms that were converted from regular classrooms.

The science labs were completed during the winter. Before the conversion, Liberty had five science rooms. Now, it has seven science rooms, with modernizations made to one of the original five rooms.


Changes to phasing

The newly designated construction phases will help the district avoid a potential conflict, Crawford said. Different contractors are handling each phase. With the reorganized phases, the contractors will be on opposite sides of the school, apart from one another and out of each other’s way.

Even though voters approved the construction projects in the 2006 bond, many of the changes to the two phases happened recently.

School administrators were trying to squeeze as much into phase one’s $19 million budget as possible — including the commons remodel and the new Performing Arts Center — but it got too expensive, according to Crawford.

“If we bid it, we have to make sure we could award it,” he said.

The bid had a long list of alternates — or projects that district administrators could decide to add later. Crawford said he began to worry that the long list of alternates would lead to bid error or bid shenanigans, a term used when companies bid low but then charge high sums for alternates.

After much deliberation, district administrators changed the two phases, with phase two costing about $44.5 million.

Principal Mike DeLetis said the new sequencing would help the school run smoothly this year, especially since the school would still have a commons, theater and gym, albeit old ones.

If the worst were to happen and the 2012 bond fails, “We would still be functioning,” DeLetis said. “If we just do the performing arts center in the parking lot, we’re not disrupting the building.”

Still, he encouraged voters to get and stay educated about the 2012 bond.

“Do you just want to get it done, or do you want to get it right?” he asked.


Liberty High School’s construction phases

Phase 1

  •  New performing arts center
  • New storm drainage, water-quality treatment and water detention facilities
  • One modernized science room and two science rooms that were converted from regular classrooms
  • Cost: About $19 million

 Phase 2

  •  New commons
  •  Reconfiguration of the office and counseling areas
  •  New auxiliary gym
  • Rebuilding, modernizing and day-lighting the classroom wings
  •  Eight new classrooms
  • New locker rooms
  • Expanded weight room
  • Stadium expansion
  •  Cost: About $45 million
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