6th/7th Grade Center Renovations
The Year Ahead
Reconfiguring the Union 6th/7th Grade Center is a difficult project. Tackling this project while the building is occupied is going to be a challenge of the highest order. That’s why planning is essential, to ensure all the pieces are assembled in the most efficient, cost-effective manner, while creating minimal disruption to the learning environment.
“One of the issues in doing a project this size is that we don’t get all the money at one time,” Associate Superintendent Charlie Bushyhead said. “We have to group these projects in the right order, as we can pay for them.”
The anticipated cost of the project is $51.6 million, approximately one-third of the total bond package. All options have been explored, including building a completely new facility or temporarily relocating students. Given that post-pandemic construction costs have skyrocketed more than 25 percent, the best option is making the changes over multiple summers and while students are in school.
“You’ve got to consider that building Ellen Ochoa Elementary was over $31 million five or six years ago,” Bushyhead said. “Today, it would cost more than $70 million to build a new 6th and 7th Grade Center from the ground up.”
In 2023, most of the work thus far has been on the planning and design phase of the various projects. Among the changes taking place:
- Reconfiguring the school, with sixth grade on the east side of the building and seventh grade on the west side, while creating smaller learning environments. Teams will be clustered, with restrooms near classrooms. This is expected to provide additional pathways and reduce congestion.
- Improved cafeteria serving area with two eating spaces that each will serve almost 400 students at a time.
- Addition of a gym on the building’s southwest side for seventh grade students, which will be a hardened facility designed as a shelter in the event of inclement weather.
- The spirit and winter guard programs will have two new practice areas and locker rooms.
- Renovation of the HVAC system, replacing an old geothermal system that no longer works.
“The real work will begin in summer 2024,” said Bushyhead. “We are literally gutting the entire mechanical/HVAC system and there will be challenges as we go forward. First, we will need to relocate and upgrade many of the supporting utilities.”
The new physical plant serving the building will be located in Central Park. A new parking area will be built on the northwest side to offset the loss of parking when the gym is built.
Other projects slated for future years include demolition of the stage to begin the cafeteria expansion. The kitchen and serving areas will be expanded. “We think the expanded space, along with sound abatement, will be a very positive change. An acoustical ceiling and wall treatments will help with sound baffling,” said Bushyhead. “An operable wall will separate the space, with almost 400 students on each side, which can be closed or opened to provide more flexibility.”
- The main classroom area will be renovated and the four classrooms across the hall from the media center will be converted into offices for the assistant principals and counselors.
- A new corridor will be added, allowing access to the office and back hallways. A portion of the media center will be converted into two additional special education classrooms.
- Four sets of restrooms will be added to each side of the building on both floors, helping with traffic flow and reducing congestion. Sinks will be located outside restrooms, and the restrooms will be close to the teams they serve.
The new gym on the building’s west side will be one of the last phases of the project. In addition to serving as the new home for the cheer program, with dedicated locker rooms and a practice space, it will also be built to withstand 250 mile-per-hour winds.
Construction is scheduled to take place through 2027.