Ridgefield school buildings taking shape

$47M in voter-appoved bonds funding bulk of work

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 
photoAmong the three new buildings in the works at the Ridgefield School District is a classroom wing and gym at Union Ridge Elementary School.

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photoA new building for South Ridge Elementary School is part of Ridgefield School District’s plans for $49 million in capital improvements at the district.

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Architects designing $49 million worth of buildings at the Ridgefield School District have released a first look at how the new construction will take shape. But as designs on the bond-funded project come together, school district officials say they're still looking to cut costs where they can.

Nine months after voters approved a 20-year, $47-million bond package to pay for the bulk of work at three Ridgefield School District campuses, Vancouver-based LSW Architects has released its preliminary designs for the buildings. The architectural schematics and illustrations for the buildings are the next steps toward breaking ground, expected to take place during late spring.

Architects plan to complete their design phase by January, but the project remains over budget, Superintendent Art Edgerly said.

In the next month, district officials and construction managers with Triplett-Wellman Construction and Ketchum Enterprises will work to decrease costs. Edgerly didn't elaborate on the costs but said project managers will be able to tweak details of the buildings to make them cheaper to build.

"When we're done with the designs in the next month," Edgerly said, "we'll be on budget and on time."

The architectural illustrations portray a project that's been in the planning stage for more than a decade, said Julie Olson, the school board's chairwoman.

District voters supported the 20-year bond measure in February with more than 64 percent of the vote -- 4 percent more than the measure needed to pass. That vote came after a four-year public involvement campaign the district undertook with the help of consultants from Maul Foster Alongi.

The involvement campaign followed past bond failures. In 2008, district voters defeated a bond package worth $85 million, intended to build a new high school.

After years of work and uncertainty, the project is coming together, Olson said.

"We're pretty excited by what we're seeing so far," she said.

Olson said the designs will allow contractors to "maximize dollars" during the construction phase by swapping out more costly building supplies with cheaper ones.

Combined, the projects promise to piece together an ambitious overhaul of the district's campuses: Plans call for building a new multipurpose facility at Ridgefield High School, as well as new buildings for South Ridge Elementary School and Union Ridge Elementary/View Ridge Middle School.

What that means for the district will be two new gyms, a new cafeteria and more space for music classes. At the high school, the multipurpose building would include classrooms in a pod-like configuration, a design characteristic Edgerly said would improve classroom collaboration.

The high school's athletics facilities will also undergo an overhaul with the installation of a synthetic turf field that can be used for soccer and football, and a resurfaced track with improved lighting.

Construction work on a new football and track field could begin as early as May. That work will temporarily displace middle school and high school track athletes, Edgerly said.

Planners with the city of Ridgefield have also begun meeting with school district officials about the project, but the city hasn't issued permits for the project.

Groundbreaking will happen in late spring, with full-scale construction slated to get under way during summer vacation. The school district hopes to have the projects completed by the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

The school district plans to print poster-sized versions of the architectural designs and post them in businesses around Ridgefield. The illustrations will also be available for review at district schools.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://www.twitter.com/col_smallcities;tyler.graf@columbian.com.