Update: Camas High expansion nears completion

Some new spaces are in use now; students, staff eager for the rest




Camas High School is nearing completion on a $7 million expansion and remodeling project that adds classrooms, parking spaces and a new cafeteria to the existing school, officials said this week.

Construction is under way on a new wing for chemistry labs and a new cafeteria commons area. The work should be done by the end of the summer.

Camas High School has already remodeled its weight and fitness rooms and added more parking spaces, as part of the project.

The expansion and remodeling is designed to accommodate the school district’s population growth since the high school opened in 2003, officials said. The school started adding portable buildings after the student population exceeded the building’s 1,600-student capacity.

The project began in June 2010 and is being funded from the district’s voter-approved $113 million capital improvement plan. Dull Olsen Weekes Architects out of Portland is in charge of the project. Corp Inc. of Salem, Ore., is handling contracting duties.

In class or out of it

The expansion and remodeling project will benefit students in all phases of their high school experience, whether that be in-class, in-between classes, or after school, officials said.

One of the 6,438-square-foot building’s jewels is the school’s spacious new cafeteria commons area. The current cafeteria does not have enough space to accommodate all students during lunch. It also does not have good enough acoustics to hold events.

“It’s not only an additional benefit to the school,” Camas High School Principal Steve Marshall said of the new space, “it’s going to present value to the district and the community. It’s going to be a facility community groups will want to use and private groups will want to rent.”

Students also expressed excitement about the new commons area. Students often congregate in hallways during lunch because there is no room at the tables inside the current commons area.

“We all just sit on the floor upstairs,” said Bethany Johnson, a 16-year-old sophomore. Johnson said she and her friends are looking forward to enjoying their lunch in the new cafeteria.

In addition to enriching students’ lunchtime experience, the school will also offer them better exercise opportunities at school.

Within the past month, the school has outfitted its fitness room with around 40 pieces of equipment, so students in physical education classes can go station-to-station rather than waiting in line. The school has transformed its old wrestling practice space into a weight room that features the latest in weight lifting equipment.

When the school opened in 2003, it used equipment from other districts to round out its fitness and weight rooms. The new equipment was overdue, said Val Parbon, a longtime physical education teacher at Camas High.

“It’s really life-changing for a lot of kids, especially students who are not playing traditional sports,” Parbon said, adding that the previous fitness room was “pitiful.”

Among other additions: seven new classrooms, including two chemistry labs, are opening on the campus’ south side; 81 spaces in the 576-space parking lot are new; the library is being expanded to accommodate more computers and students; and a new wrestling gym is being built.

Those new chemistry labs — with air, gas and water at each student station — will allow work “at a university level,” said Ellise Anderson, the school’s principal for math, science and technology magnet programs.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517, ray.legendre@columbian.com, www.twitter.com/col_smallcities.