New high school ahead of schedule

PHOTO/Nancy Pounds/AJOC
Construction is more than three-fourths complete on the $45 million Dimond High School replacement, the largest project in the Anchorage School District’s history.

Work on the 264,000-square-foot, two-story school should be finished in spring 2003, a few months ahead of schedule, said Ray Amsden, Anchorage School District director of facilities.

The cost of the Dimond High eclipses recent projects to build Mirror Lake Middle School and Goldenview Junior High, which each cost in the mid-$30 million range, he said.

It also is one of the largest construction projects under way in Anchorage this year.

Building began 15 months ago, alongside the current Dimond High, said Vince Stevens, school district project manager. General contractor Alcan General Inc. and its subcontractors were able to work during winter, which contributed to being ahead of schedule, he said.

"On a project this size it’s quite a credit to the contractor," he said.

Alcan project manager Stephen Jelinek believes the building should be finished in January, although the contractor will have a few site details to complete that June. The project is four to five months ahead of schedule, he said. "I think we can stick to it," Jelinek said. "We’ve gotten over the risk areas."

He attributes the swift progress to coordination among project participants.

"We’re blessed to have really good people," Jelinek said.

Stevens, from the school district, agreed, noting the efforts from Alcan and Anchorage-based company USKH Architects, Engineers, Surveyors & Planners.

AMC Engineers of Anchorage served as electrical and mechanical engineer contractor.

Employment at the site peaked three to four months ago at 140 workers, while minimum employment has been 100 people, Stevens said. The project is 79 percent complete, Stevens said.

In some sections of the building, walls are painted and lockers and white boards are already installed, while other areas like the main gymnasium and auditorium-cafeteria have additional work remaining.

Work this summer will finish most academic areas, including installing carpet and other floor coverings, Stevens said. Construction on public areas such as the gym will continue through February.

Currently, Dimond has 2,100 students, requiring 19 relocatable classrooms at the site, Stevens said. Those units will not be needed once the new 1,600-student school is completed, boundaries are redrawn and the new South Anchorage high school is finished, he said. That date is tentatively set for fall 2004.

Another Anchorage high school is being built this year. Site work started in May on the new $68 million South Anchorage school, according to school district facilties director Amsden.

Once the Dimond replacement school is finished, another construction phase will follow to demolish the old school, renovate the front area to include student and public parking, an entry plaza and tennis courts, Stevens said. That work is being designed now and should go out for bid in 2003.

Dimond High’s new design separates academic and public areas, he said. It will allow community members to use the gym or library while school officials can close off classroom wings and prevent vandalism.

The design also features a new arrangement called an academic wing, which aims to create a more personal environment, Stevens said. Each wing will house most classrooms and lockers for 400 students plus have an office for an assistant principal and a guidance counselor.

Another feature in each wing is a teacher work area, which includes a computer work station and locking cabinet for each teacher plus a kitchenette. A teachers’ lounge is located near the administration area. The school has been wired for high-technology applications including card-reader entry as well as overhead projectors and data connections in classrooms, Stevens said.

The main gym, with a 1,600-person capacity, has a three-lane, one-eighth mile running track circling its second level. An adjacent auxiliary gym is suited for smaller activities like wrestling or gymnastics practice rather than large assemblies, Stevens said.

An auditorium-cafeteria combines food service and performance capability in a design concept probably used for the first time in Alaska, he said. The area includes a stage and orchestra pit.

A commons area includes stairs and an elevator to the second level. The school has two art rooms, a scene shop for performances, one room each for band, choir and orchestra, and individual practice rooms for music students.

The school will have a new hockey rink, and soccer and baseball fields.

"It’s going to be a beautiful site," Stevens said.

06/09/2002 - 8:00pm