BRUSH PRAIRIE — Students in Hockinson Middle School’s science, technology, engineering and math classes were taken outside to the construction site of the district’s replacement middle school on Friday to see first hand some of the topics they cover in class.
The students, ranging from sixth- to eighth-graders, learned about plans for the new school, saw some large construction vehicles up close and found other forms of entertainment on a soggy October day.
“The morning group was a bit quieter and asked more questions,” said Bryan Kenney, project manager with Robinson Construction, which is handling the project. “The afternoon group had a lot more energy. They liked to play in the mud.”
While touring the site of the new middle school and athletic field, afternoon visitors from Mark Muckerheide’s STEM class spent plenty of time jumping from puddle to puddle, climbing mud piles and using pencils to play drums on helmets provided by Robinson.
“Our class is about building things,” Muckerheide said. “What a perfect opportunity to get. They’re building a school right outside from us. Sometimes in class, we can feel the earth shaking while they’re doing work over here. The students ask if we’re having an earthquake.”
Funding for the $27,319,678 middle school project comes mostly from the district’s $39.9 million bond that voters approved in February 2015, with the state chipping in $7.7 million in capital construction money. The new middle school will feature updated science labs, enhanced technology, spaces for career and technical programs, and improved parking and student drop-off/pick-up areas. The current middle school will be used for administrative services and storage. The gymnasium will be offered for community rental.
The new middle school was originally scheduled to open midway through the 2017-18 school year, but construction is ahead of schedule and the school should be ready in time for the start of next school year.
After getting the bid, Robinson Construction officials asked if they could have access to the entire northern part of campus, where the new middle school will go, which is part of the reason for the shortened schedule. Instead of doing part of the work starting this past summer and part next summer, the crew could work on the whole project starting in July. That meant knocking down a play structure, which wasn’t scheduled to happen until next summer. Robinson put up a tent outside for kids to play under and provided some extra storage for the district. Because of construction, there’s also a temporary bus lane between current buildings. The district put up a temporary fence in that area for students.
“The bus lane is now another play area,” said Damon Roche, capital projects manager for the district. “We haven’t had one complaint from parents or teachers. The kids love it.”
Roche said district officials wanted to make sure the construction didn’t interfere with any of the students’ learning. Muckerheide is already thinking about how monthly visits to the construction site can enhance his classes this year, and he’s not the only one. Roche said teachers at the high school have also asked about bringing classes to the site.
The students toured the site Friday with Muckerheide, a few Robinson employees and Roche, who provided them a sheet of questions to ask about the construction. The students also had their own questions, asking where the STEM classroom and gym would be and if the school would have lockers. Most of the building’s footings have been poured, and some roughed-in plumbing and electrical conduits are already installed. The crew will start adding in walls soon.
The students also walked over the new track, where even on a rainy Friday, they could smell the fresh asphalt, which was laid down Thursday. In the middle of the new track will be a football field, which had a sprinkler system installed recently. The field should be planted before winter kicks in, so it will be ready for the start of the 2017-18 school year. In the original plan, the field wouldn’t have been seeded until next summer.
The current construction also includes additions to Hockinson High School, such as a band room, a wrestling room, a baseball field, two soccer fields and tennis courts.
“We’re finishing the high school we started building 12 years ago,” Roche said.