Referendum construction continues, high school addition almost done


Josha Crites-Kumal

The second floor of the high school administration building. The second floor has become a construction zone as the LMC is expanded by the new addition.

After about six months of construction on schools across the district, there has been significant progress in the referendum updates to school buildings and infrastructures. A new addition to the high school administration building is the most notable among the projects. 

The referendum, which was passed by Shorewood voters in April 2019, put $65 million towards renovations and construction throughout the school district. With the referendum come new classrooms, improved electrical and air systems, improved ADA accessibility and renovated classrooms and bathrooms. 

In the next six months, the district will see more small renovations on classrooms than big construction projects. At the high school, the addition that expands the administration building’s first and second floors is scheduled to be completed on April 1. After that, renovations will take up most of the construction time. 

“There’s still some work that needs to be completed up on the third floor of the administration building, and then it’ll be touch-up work and stuff happening in other classrooms in the auditorium building and the arts and science building,” said Tim Kenney, principal.

The work in the auditorium will consist of modifying and updating the life safety systems, like fire alarms and sprinkler systems.

There will also be updates to in the arena, north gym and the original swimming pool –– the pool will be re-tiled, the arena will get a new ceiling and the north gym will get a new floor.

Most of the projects are on schedule, and some are ahead of schedule due to the absence of a large number of students.

“[Students] haven’t been occupying the building so we’ve been able to accelerate some of the construction opportunities,” said Mike Huffman, owner’s representative for the referendum construction project.

With the benefit of increased access to classrooms not in use, the pandemic has also had its negative effect on construction. 

“We’ve had to adjust how we conduct all of our meetings which makes it a little more difficult––the construction is something you’ve got to get your eyes on to be able to talk about advancing projects, so it’s made that a little more cumbersome,” Huffman said. “We’ve had some key individuals in the construction trades who have had to be quarantined or who have had to sit out due to COVID. So really it’s a constant juggle with that.”

Two weeks after the high school addition is done, construction crews will begin working on the first floor of the administration building, where they will rebuild the office layout and entrance. At that point, the entire first floor will be cut off from students.

“From a safety standpoint, the first floor of the administration building will become a construction zone, so everything will be blocked off,” Kenney said. “Temporary walls will be put in if need be to ensure that students don’t accidentally walk into a construction zone.”

At the elementary schools, the following months will consist of classroom renovations, which is not a change from what they’ve seen in construction since the beginning. Both elementary schools are ahead of schedule in their construction because crews were able to get into spaces early, according to Huffman. But, there have been some bumps in the road, like discovering unknown conditions that needed to be fixed.

“For instance, at Atwater we found a lot of the utility services — stormwater and sanitary sewer — were decayed, and we had to replace them, and that wasn’t part of the original [plan],” Huffman said.

A renovated classroom on the third floor of the administration building. New and renovated classrooms include new carpeting and improved heating and air systems. (Josha Crites-Kumal)

Christine Trainor, high school teacher, got a new room from the referendum. Construction crews turned one large room into two smaller rooms, one of which Trainor will now teach in.

“It’s been really neat to see the process of a classroom being built from scratch. They took down a bunch of walls, they removed the ceiling. So it’s been cool to see the behind-the-scenes work of what goes into making a classroom,” Trainor said. “The classroom that I’m in, I believe, was a room and a half last year.”

Before, Trainor shared rooms with other teachers, but this year is the first year she has a permanent room.

“The new room has new carpeting, a new ventilation system, and it’s going to get new furniture as well that’s going to allow flexible seating with students,” Trainor said. “It will allow for a lot of options with how you want to set up the classroom.” 

Construction and renovations in the arts and science building will happen over the coming summer. Although the library will be finished before the 20212022 school year, students will not have access until later in the fall.

“Even when the library is done, the library is not going to be accessible for students until next school year, probably around October,” Kenney said. “Because while student support services and the health office are being reconstructed, we’re going to need to have space to put those offices, so we’re going to have to move student support services up to the second floor into the library space temporarily.”

Huffman is anticipating positive reactions from students and staff once construction is done.

“I think the projects are pretty exciting. I think you’re having a brand new prominent entry into the high school will really give a nice sense of presence … I think you guys are going to be very excited about that,” Huffman said. “And then all the work on the second floor with the expansion of the LMC, kind of bringing up some of the spaces to current technology with WIFI distribution and video aspects within the LMC will be pretty quite positive.”