Built in 1957 when Ike had just begun his second term in the White House, when the Hula Hoop was all the craze and when cool guys sported DA haircuts, Olympic Middle School at 60 is today a geezer facility, old, cold, run down, depressing.
When it rains, “Lake Olympic,” a body of water half the size of the school’s cafeteria, pools in the center of campus and a waterfall splashes off the roof outside the library.
Inside, students and teachers, staff and administrators suffer daily from badly outdated heating, ventilation and insulation systems, and outside, the paucity of parking is a continual source of aggravation for everybody.
But soon, nuts to all that.
Absher Construction expects to start work in March on the new Olympic Middle School. At 105,000 square feet, it will replace the current 92,000-square-foot building with a two-story, brick-faced structure wired for 21st century technology and with significantly more parking outside. Where the present school now stands there’ll be softball, football and baseball fields, and a track.
It will have a contained courtyard for the kids and a mere two entrances compared to the dozen or so now, so that when school is in session, there’ll be much greater security. And with everything in one building, students won’t have to walk along breezeways to get to class.
“We’ll have more spaces that will be helpful to the community, more special education spaces, a bigger commons to accommodate performances, lunches, community meetings, a nice library,” said Jeff Grose, executive director of capital projects for the Auburn School District. “We’ll still have 800 students here, and we’ll always make room for future, portable classrooms. The entire inside of the building will have wireless access, and PE teachers will be able to do their attendance right out there on the field.”
As for parking, the new school will accommodate 250 vehicles, a significant improvement from the present 78. And when parents drop off or pick up their kids, they won’t have to do that on the street anymore.
All of it should be finished in time for the school to open in fall 2019.
On Thursday, Dec. 14, parents and students talked with school board members, the district’s capital projects department and with BLRB Architects and studied plans for and images of the new school, offered in a 3-D building video and more.
Brandon and Heather Adkins’s daughter, Morgan, 10, will be among that first group of students at the new school, but their son, Tyler, who is now in seventh grade, will miss that auspicious year, as he’ll make the move up to high school just when the new school opens.
“As a parent, what excites me most is the parking; having to drop (Tyler) off or pick him up, ugh,” said Heather Adkins. “But I like everything in general – it’s such an old school with such old infrastructure now.”
“Our kids have gone to Alpac Elementary, but we’ve never experienced a new school before, neither my wife nor I,” Brandon Adkins added.
The soon-to-be brick-and mortar school is a testament to the generosity of the Auburn community, which passed a $456,056,000 bond package on Nov. 8, 2016 to replace six current schools. The money will build two new elementary schools, one on the south end, the other on the north end, both serving up to 650 students.
Olympic Middle School is only the first of the projects that the bond will fund. The others are.
• Dick Scobee Elementary, built in 1954
• Pioneer Elementary, built in 1959
• Chinook Elementary, built in 1963
•Terminal Park Elementary, built in 1945,
• Lea Hill Elementary, built in 1965.
While the new middle school is rising, the present Olympic will serve as a middle school for its students for a year. Between 2019 and 2022, it will be an interim elementary school for the other schools being replaced.
In 2019 the district will bring students over from Dick Scobee Elementary School while it is being rebuilt, in 2020 students from Pioneer Elementary, in 2021 the children from Chinook, and in 2022 students from Terminal Park.
Then the old Olympic will come down and baseball and football fields, a track and more parking will be built.
“This improvement is needed to provide this middle school with a better learning environment for our students so they can reach their potential,” said Auburn School Board member Ray Vefik. “What I appreciate is that our community recognized that when it passed the bond a year ago at almost 63 percent, and now we want to show what the community is getting for their buck.”
“It’s such an exciting opportunity for kids in our community to have spaces that are designed to modern standards and designed for technology” said Alan Spicciati, superintendent of the Auburn School District. “You think of the learning tools that kids have today, so many of them weren’t even thought of when schools like this were built. Part of it is a better learning environment that doesn’t take our resources to keep up and running.”