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After a year of construction that began in Dec. 2018, Phase I of the Buena Vista School construction project is nearly complete. Or, at least complete enough for students to begin their second semester classes in new space, as Phase II of the project begins. The public will finally get a look at the construction progress at a Phase I Open House scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday January 11.

“We still don’t have our occupancy permit today, but we’ll be ready for students to return on Thursday, January 9,” said Buena Vista School Superintendent Lisa Yates, during a brief conversation on January 2 in the midst of her security training session for staff. “We won’t be quite finished that day. Returning students will be eating lunch in the halls for a while, but everyone is excited. The lunches will temporarily be prepared at Avery/Parsons Elementary School and brought over to the new building.”

She said the school district is hoping for a big turnout from the public to see the new spaces: “We really want people to see this beautiful building.”

The new main entrance to the Buena Vista High School was still getting finishing touches the week prior to students’ return.

A visit to the construction zone right after New Year’s Day found crews moving like ants over all areas of the site. Bulldozers loaded out construction and demolition debris. Yellow hard hat work crews worked to unload equipment into classrooms, the arts and music rooms, and the science labs. Other construction staff moved about with clipboards, ticking off finish items. Temporary, portable classrooms have been delivered and sprawl across available land around the retained middle school structure and new school buildings.

Kyle Walter of Haselden Construction at the base of the “grand staircase” between the first and second floors of the new Buena Vista High School building. Students begin classes in the building Jan. 9. (Photos by Jan Wondra)

Yates motioned up the sweeping stairs to the second floor, in the main entrance hall, referred to by the work crews as “the grand staircase.”

She explained that as Phase II begins, the move into the basically-completed Phase I space will see the high school classes being held on the second floor, while the middle school will temporarily occupy the first floor.

The construction process, added Yates, is basically on schedule. The plan is to complete construction by August, 2020.

The new Buena Vista school project is ambitious; including the construction of a new two-story high school and middle school academic wing, a flex-commons area, new administration, a new tech/art/music/consumer studies area, and a media enter/connector area. The site plan also includes new driveway areas and parking, a new middle school gym, and renovation of the existing high school gym.

The project adds 96,848 sq. ft. of new space to the campus, renovates 29,440 sq. ft of classroom space, and reuses the 7,840 sq. ft. space that is the industrial arts building. By the time all phases are complete, all existing middle school and high school academic buildings, art building, the middle school gym and cafeteria will be demolished. The total middle and high school structure with all phases completed will come to 134,128 sq. ft.

An outside view showing a portion of the new two-story class room spaces.

One of the more amazing facts of this $50 million school construction project is that construction is expected to be completed while students are attending school on site.

Haselden Construction, working in a joint venture with local construction company Diesslin Structures, Inc., is contracted for the construction project.

They are working around one huge extenuating circumstance; that construction must be phased to ensure there is no disruption for students while they are in class. Even the temporary classroom facilities are anticipated as short term use – not for the duration of the project.

For more background on the construction of the new Buena Vista High School and Middle school: