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Updated look at DeForest Area School District referendum projects

The DeForest Area School Board was treated to a virtual tour of the new intermediate school and the high school renovation and addition at its meeting on Dec. 9.

Both projects were part of the $125 million referendum approved by school district voters last spring.

With the high school, the design development phase has been completed, according to Mike Schwindenhammer, senior design architect with Eppstein Uhen Architects. Next comes the construction documents. Already, school officials have received some good news about the high school project.

“Steve Findorff said we’re still tracking to be on budget,” said Schwindenhammer, in his update at the meeting.

The construction phase for the high school work is expected to take place from the spring of 2020 through the summer of 2022. The EAU design team is going to be huddling with district staff and engineering consultants to wrap up structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems. The group working on the new intermediate school is going over those same areas.

This spring, construction work will begin on the new high school pool and gym additions. Translucent glass surrounding the pool will be installed to prevent glare.

One of the key improvements included in the high school project involved bringing in more natural light, according to EUA personnel. That was one of the top requests from students. They are also trying to provide more views for students.

Work on the new intermediate school for students in grades 4-6 is further along. The schematic design process was finished last summer, and it is expected to be constructed by fall 2021, leaving the district’s elementary schools to serve student in grades 1-3 and the existing middle school for those in grades 7-8.

A name for the new intermediate school has yet to be chosen. The district is asking for suggestions from the community. The deadline for submitting potential names for the intermediate school is Jan. 20.

Presenters went through the sizable new gym, the display cases that will provide information on its designation as a geothermal school and its sustainability efforts, the upstairs library media center (LMC) and maker space environment, the creative suites for STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) and STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) education, the learning communities and small-group instruction areas located right next to classrooms, the elevator off the main commons and the interior finishes, among other things.

EUA presenters noted that there was “good connectivity between spaces.” There is also a centralized area for different services, such as special education, access to social workers and intensive support services for students. EUA representatives said they didn’t want students who need such services to go all the way to the main office to see a professional.

As of Dec. 20, 70 percent of the construction documents for the new intermediate building were finished, compared to 15 percent for the high school renovation and addition. Consultant coordination meetings will be held in January and February for the intermediate school. Documents are also being compiled for the process of gaining approval from the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission.

The Department of Natural Resources has approved the filling of small man-made wetlands on the site of the new intermediate school and the Army Corps of Engineers’ review is under way.

For the high school, the construction manager is preparing an updated estimate from the completed design development documents. The design team working on that part of the referendum projects met with the district to get its approval, with feedback from that meeting expected to be incorporated into the design, and is collaborating with engineering to coordinate plans. Another trip to the high school is going to be scheduled to make sure existing conditions are verified.

In EUA’s presentation earlier in December, company representatives walked school board members through virtual plans for the commons areas, the gym, the new pool, the LMC area – designed to be a welcoming environment, according to school officials – and the new science corridor, among other areas. Two new classrooms have been added to the science course.

Presenters also talked about the park theme décor that will be continued through different areas.

With regard to work at Yahara Elementary School, that’s being put on hold until April. The construction manager is working to update a budget estimate based on the schematic design drawings.

Initial planning for the middle school/district office renovation began in November, with work on schematic designs scheduled to start in January. Still, construction has begun, but is dependent on the weather. Pre-planning efforts with district office staff will begin prior to the design work that starts this month.

Peter Lindblad
DeForest Times-Tribune