Facilities supervisor Jim Kenoyer walked toward the doorway of a Blaine high school classroom on a warm August afternoon and pulled out a key ring that allows him access through any door on the property.
Once the room was lit, Kenoyer explained the classroom is used to teach science courses. The building dates back to the 1970s and is one of the oldest buildings on the high school campus.
“It was well designed in its time, but that time has passed,” Kenoyer said.
The lack of integrated science labs and the classroom’s small seating capacity make it one of the high school’s learning spaces most in need of upgrades, Kenoyer explained.
A new building to house new science and math classrooms is one of the additions planned for the high school if voters approve a $32 million proposed bond in the April 2011 election.
The Blaine school board recently gave superintendent Ron Spanjer the go ahead to develop the details on the bond, which could be presented to the board as early as the fall.
The bond would cost taxpayers about 33 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. The owner of a house valued at $250,000 would pay about $84 more per year.
About $28 million of the $32 million would pay for modernization of the high school’s science and math facilities in addition to demolition of four classroom buildings that have been around since 1970. Spanjer said it would cost less money to construct completely new buildings than completely remodel the existing ones.
The subject of major overhauls to the high school first came up in 2004, Kenoyer said. The Blaine school district was facing an influx of students because of the housing boom and needed larger facilities.
“It looked for a while like we couldn’t build fast enough,” Kenoyer said.
At that time the district was projecting high school enrollment of about 1,200 students, Kenoyer said. Then the housing bubble burst.
Kenoyer said the idea of that many new students swelling the district’s ranks disappeared seemingly overnigh and the district went from gearing up for more students to considering what the current number of students needed most, Kenoyer said.
The proposed bond, if passed, would give the district the money to accomplish two major goals: giving high school students updated resources in numerous aspects of their education and creating a more centralized campus.
In addition to science classrooms with integrated labs to replace the aging single science lab, the bond would pay for the construction of a cafeteria specifically for the high school.
Currently, all 600 or so high school students share the middle school cafeteria in staggered periods with the middle school students, Kenoyer said.
This arrangement causes about half of the high students to eat outside during lunch, Kenoyer said. The cafeteria would sit where the high school’s grass field is now, he explained.
Just north of the proposed cafeteria, four of the original high school classroom buildings, known as “pods,” would be demolished to make way for new versions. Two of the pods are made up of four classrooms around a central covered area with a large skylight. The skylight provides much needed natural light, but also increases the temperature in the 40-year-old buildings.
“It can get insufferably hot in these places,” Kenoyer said.
The aged ventilation systems which do a poor job of cooling the classrooms when the temperature rises are part of the reason the district wants to demolish the buildings and construct updated classrooms, Kenoyer explained.
Skylights to provide natural light will also be added to the newer pods, which were built in 1992, he said.
The district also intends to use the money to consolidate its facilities. Currently, some students have to walk the length of the campus in the short time between classes, Kenoyer said. For example, the special education and life skills classrooms are 1,400 feet from the main building, he said.
Students must also go to the middle school building for choir and health classes. High school and middle school students mixing in the halls can be disruptive for both types of students, he added.
The addition of a building that would house the science and math classrooms would also add space to further centralize the high school’s facilities, Kenoyer said. The district wants to reconfigure the school’s footprint to make it more accessible to students, not just to add more classrooms.
“You can’t just add to the maze indefinitely,” Kenoyer said.
Kenoyer said he sees the proposed high school expansion as not just an opportunity to improve the school, but also improve the experience of students.
He said he has known students who have said they would not even come to school if it weren’t for a specific program, such as wrestling or choir.
“We want to make this a place where kids want to be,” Kenoyer said.
Photos by Jeremy Schwartz