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PJH swings into its renovation

POULSBO — If curves and circles are cool in the architecture world these days, then it turns out that Poulsbo Junior High School is currently a bit of a square.

Harthorne-Hagen Architects, designers of the $8.1 million renovation, found ways to curve new walls and break the “rectangular” nature of the school, said North Kitsap School District Capital Projects Manager Dennis Burch. For instance, the library’s bookshelves will now be shaped at an angle, rather than their previous square formation.

“Instead of being a rigid, rectangular floor plan, it’s set at an angle, and many curved walls have been added,” said Burch, referring to the library shelves.

Creating a more curvaceous building style is just one of the many aspects that will be altered during the school’s renovation, which started in late June and is expected to continue until August 2006.

The entire renovation will include seismic retrofitting for better stability during earthquakes, upgrades in fire safety, new plumbing, heating, ventilation and electrical systems, much in the way of new lighting and new exterior siding. Though most of the focus will be primarily fixed on PJH’s 58,000-square-foot “Building 1,” the renovation also calls for new siding on the school’s gymnasium to increase the complex’s uniformity.

The entire project is quite a load for primary contractor Hilger Construction of Tacoma, which doesn’t have time flexibility in any aspect of renovation — when students have to be in school, there can be no delay. As a result, if materials are postponed, another portion of the project must go forward to keep the operation on time.

“This is the kind of project where you have to adapt as situations arise,” said Jon Olson, Hilger’s superintendent on the project. “We don’t have lead-time as a luxury. We just have to get it done.”

The renovation will also completely reconfigure the school so each grade level is drawn together in tight clusters of classrooms. Two grade levels will be located inside the building, while one will exist in a pod of portable classrooms on the building’s east side.

Each grade level cluster, or small learning community (SLC), will consist of six classrooms, one science lab, a special education classroom and a planning office for teachers.

“The overriding concept here is not just to renovate,” Burch said, “but to continue moving toward SLCs.”

Another plus for reconfiguring the building was to provide central locations for certain school functions. For instance, a textbook inventory room will be added near the library so librarians can better keep tabs on the school’s written materials. Other specialized classes and sessions will also be more centrally located, Burch said.

“Some things were squeezed into rooms here and there,” he commented. “This (remodel) will make things more efficient and organized.”

New computer technology for things like ventilation and temperature control will enable the district’s maintenance staff to perform faster diagnostics and quickly find problem areas, Burch added.

The school was also abated of any possible asbestos or other hazardous growths occurring in the school.

Phase 1 started with a complete gutting of the school’s Instructional Media Center with a revised floor plan to include a comfortable student lounge, computer lab and classroom area.

During Phase 2, the student gathering area known as “the pit,” will be converted into “the jungle,” a student-driven idea to create an atmosphere to better match the school’s Panther mascot. A classroom cluster will also be renovated during that time.

Two of the reconfigured grade levels will be housed inside the building but due to size limitations, one grade level SLC will have to be housed in portable classrooms at the rear of the school in what is now the staff parking lot. Additional building space was sought by administrators and chief project architects Harthorne Hagen, but the cost proved too great.

While Phase 3 renovates another classroom cluster, Phase 4 includes a total revamp of the administration and office areas. That includes new plumbing, heating and ventilation systems electrical and fire safety equipment. It will also include a new awning and school entrance to give PJH a more prominent place of entry.

During the school year, students and teachers — 120 of them at each phase — will use leased portables, to be located on the school’s west lawn.

The current building, which includes numerous entries, will have just two entrances on the north and south sides when renovation is complete, both of which can also be monitored by the building’s adults — the office at the north end and the new counseling center location at the south.

“This should give the school a little more sense of community,” Burch said of the overall renovation.

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