Douglas High plan: Raze building, raise capacity
Bringing the freshman class back to Douglas High School may result in the demolition of one of the oldest buildings on the campus.
Required work to bring the freshman class back to the high school will cost between $13.874 million and $17.635 million. That work includes modifications to the rest rooms and gym to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, improved parking, a new classroom building, remodeling ROTC, the commons and the kitchen.
The Ellen Butler Vocational Building, also known as the 500 building, has had a checkered past, including having the roof blow off two years after it was built just in time for a rain storm.
“I’ve always had bad feelings about that building,” former teacher and school board member Randy Green said on Tuesday night during a presentation on the master plan for the school.
The building currently houses the school’s art and shop classrooms, but suffers from an inadequate exhaust system, according to Stafford King Wiese Architects Project Manager Ellen Mejia Hooper, who is working on a new master plan for the school.
Among six different configurations brought to school board members on Tuesday night, half would see the building torn down and replaced by classrooms in a future phase.
The other half would keep the building and convert the art and shop classes to regular classrooms. Art and shop would then move to a new building located further north on the campus.
Mejia Hooper said the difficulty is what to do with the vocational building.
“We haven’t done a technical inspection, but the shell of the building may be sound,” she said. “But the HVAC system has issues. Rather than try and fix the HVAC system, we could take the classes that need the exhaust and build a new structure for shop and art classes. Then we don’t need to build as many classrooms.”
Mejia Hooper said there was an eight-classroom swing that could be accommodated by the building. Keeping the building is slightly cheaper in the long run than tearing it down. But keeping it increases the costs in the first phase.
The district will have to expand the high school campus in order to move Carson Valley’s freshman class. Principal Marty Swisher estimated there would be 500-600 freshmen in addition to the school’s present population that would have to be accommodated by the redesign.
The school currently serves 1,286 students in the sophomore, junior and senior classes. The freshman class was dispersed to Valley middle schools when Pau-Wa-Lu was built in 1994 in order to handle rapidly increasing student population. Now that the student population is declining, the goal is to return the freshman class to the high school.
The priority of the work would have to focus on increasing the number of classrooms at the school. That would include building a two-story classroom structure on the east side of the campus that faces onto Highway 88.
Board member Teri Jamin said she was concerned that the new building be designed to also act as the front of the school.
She was told a two-story classroom building will be a necessity, since the school doesn’t have the real estate to build all one-story buildings.
The new classroom building would close off the base of the triangle formed by the high school’s east entrance.
Swisher said he felt the classroom building across the east side of the campus could help with maintaining security.
“I’ve always thought the front of the building was kind of wasted space,” he said.
He said having the commons expanded would be critical when the freshman class arrives.
An events gym that seats 2,000 would be a big improvement over the present gym which seats 1,000 on the bleachers and can handle another 200 standing.
The small gym in the school doesn’t meet any regulation, Mejia Hooper said.
“Building an events gym is a whole other ballgame,” she said.
“There’s very little option in this,” board member Ross Chichester said. “It’s what we can afford to do. Which option gives us the most bang for our buck.”
Swisher answered that if the focus is to bring the freshman class back to the high school classroom space is critical.
“Every day every kid in this school crosses through the commons,” he said. “If we’re going to add 400-500 students that space is going to have to be expanded. We need to get 600 additional students and be able to seat them all.”
Swisher said the school could survive leaving the office where it is.
However, the gym will be a major issue for the freshman class, which is required to take physical education.
“Do we have enough space without expanding the small gym? I’m afraid we’ll find ourselves caught short. Those are the areas we should focus on.”
Having the large gym separate from the school building posed both advantages and disadvantages, board member Randy Green said.
“When we invite the community to a sporting event we have to open the entire school,” he said. “Most people’s perception of the school is developed when we have an event in the gym.”
Consultants will meet with the site committee one more time and then return to the school board in March with a master plan based on the feedback provided by board members.
Originally built in 1975, Douglas High School in Minden replaced Douglas County High School which had been in use since 1916. The school was expanded as a result of the 1992 school bond that built Minden and Pinon Hills elementary schools and Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.