Capital and Olympia High Schools Construction Continues, Despite COVID-19

the 2019 school bond that passed is helping fund construction projects at Olympia and Capital High Schools. Photo courtesy: Olympia School District

When students at Capital and Olympia High School finally get to return to in-person classrooms, they will have some nice new amenities to explore. While COVID-19 caused the schools to close down in March, the Olympia School District (OSD) has done its best to keep construction going on Capital High School’s new theater and batting cages, and Olympia High School’s new classroom additions.

Capital High School Construction

Anyone who has been to a production at Capital High School (CHS) knows that the theater is fairly small and outdated for the size of the school. “The current CHS theater has some physical constraints, it only seats 380 people, it doesn’t have a full height flyloft, and the stage and the proscenium are too small for a high school,” explains Susan Gifford, executive director of communication and community relations for the Olympia School District. “We also wanted to improve access for people with disabilities.”

The Facilities Advisory Committee decided it was time for a new Performing Arts Center (PAC), and it was put on the 2016 school bond. Voters passed the bond, and the OSD Capital Planning and Construction department worked with staff from CHS for over a year on a design. It was decided that a brand-new building would better suit what they needed, including more seats. “The current theater will be remodeled to be a ‘black box’ classroom and a lecture hall,” explains Gifford.

Despite COVID-19 delays, the new Capital High School’s Performing Arts Center should be completed by February 2021. Photo courtesy: Olympia School District

Black box classrooms are becoming trendy again as they take advantage of the smaller spaces many schools and nonprofit organizations have to create an intimate experience for smaller shows. The rooms, as the name implies, are usually painted all black with a flat floor, allowing the spectators to be fully immersed in the show on the stage without distractions. It also minimizes the need for props and large set scenes. Having one at Capital High School will allow theater students more creativity when it comes to productions.

The new PAC was part of a $27 million construction improvement project for Capital High School that included replacing or upgrading siding, roof, windows and the heating and cooling system in the main building. It was all paid for by the 2016 bond. “Capital High School is very excited to get a new PAC!” says Curtis Cleveringa, Capital High School principal. “When finished the project is going to be amazing, and our theatre and music students can’t wait to put it to good use. I want to thank the community for their continued support.”

Totally 46,000 square feet, the new PAC will seat 513; have a full-height flyloft; a 3,900-square-foot stage; recessed orchestra pit; a green room; a scene shop; state-of-the art control booth and lighting and sound system; and a two-level lobby with plenty of room to show off student artwork. It should be completed by February 2021.

“Our entire community—students, staff, families and the community—are thrilled to see the progress of these school improvements,” shares Gifford. “We had open houses to share the design of the new PAC. Students involved with music and theater programs, especially, were excited and interested to see what is being built for them.”

Capital High School is also getting a 4,900-square-foot indoor batting cage area that will include 120-foot by 39-foot turf practice space suitable for fielding practice along with 3 retractable batting cages. “This project has been in the planning, permitting and construction phase for the last 4 years,” shares Gifford. “It was scheduled to be finished for the Spring of 2020 season, however due to COVID it will be finished this Fall.”  The $150,000 batting cage project was funded by private donations to the Capital Baseball Booster Club as well as in-kind labor donations from five local contractors totaling $10,000.

Olympia High School Construction

Olympia High School (OHS) is getting classroom additions as part of the same 2016 bond. “Everyone is excited,” shares Gifford. “We had open houses to share with the design of the additions with the entire community.”

Photo courtesy: Olympia School District

Part of the project is replacing 10 portable classrooms with permanent structures. They are also adding science labs to accommodate the State’s new graduation requirements, new classrooms for students with special needs and a new music classroom.

“The new construction will have a positive impact at OHS because the new classrooms are vibrant, exciting places that inspire learning!” says Matt Grant, Olympia High School principal. “The improved community spaces are very welcoming to our students and community. The new buildings reveal the values our community places in the sciences, arts, academics, special education and student life. With 21 new classrooms, a new turf field, and improvements to our entrance, we are looking forward to welcoming students when they return from distance learning.”

OHS is also getting a synthetic turf practice field, a larger commons and cafeteria space, building upgrades including security enhancements and relocation of the student store to the commons as part of the bond. The total construction budget was $22 million.

“COVID did have a several week impact on getting material shipped to the site, and the scheduling of labor forces,” says Gifford.” Some of the project is already completed, including the music classroom. A two-story classroom addition is scheduled to be completed in September and the science labs in October.

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