Ashland High renovations focus of public hearing

Architects will unveil two design options for upgrading Ashland High School's physical education and music complex at a public forum today.

Ashland School District officials hope to hear opinions about whether to remodel the existing gymnasium and music chambers or replace the structure with a new one using some proceeds of a $46.8 million bond package approved in November.

The site committee of staff, students and community members will consider the attributes of each design and recommend one to the Ashland School Board for selection.

The committee will weigh functionality, flexibility and public comments, but the budget will likely have the greatest influence on the ultimate decision, said Ashland schools Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

About $7.3 million is earmarked for construction of the project.

Known for its quaint appearance, the existing gymnasium falls short of instructional space for physical education classes. About 90 percent of the time the students use the gym for physical education classes and personal fitness rather than competitive games, Di Chiro said.

About 400 students attended the high school when the gym was constructed in 1952. Since then, the student body, now at about 1,100, has outgrown the building, officials say.

Architects DLR Group, of Portland, and Medford-based Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture will offer an option today that involves remodeling the existing gym and music rooms to augment instructional and court space. The design would also increase the building's flexibility for multiple uses, including competitive athletic games, physical education courses and personal fitness, and connect the music chambers to the new theater next door.

"The biggest challenge is there is no connectivity to the new theater," said architect Ken Ogden, of Ogden Roemer Wilkerson. "Student have to go outside and carry their instruments to the new theater."

The renovation would require seismic upgrades and making the building accessible to those with disabilities.

The second option calls for razing the existing structure and replacing it with a new one. That option would likely cost about $500,000 more than the remodel and produce less square footage, Di Chiro said.

"With the new construction, you have no surprises, so you're not running into any unplanned issues," Di Chiro said. "Another advantage is we would be able to build as green as possible, which is a high value for all of our construction projects, and we would have something new we know would last."

Both options would increase the number of game courts from two to three.

"We really don't need three different game spaces, but we certainly need the three gyms for P.E.," Di Chiro said.

Both designs also retain the gym's popular balcony and the entrance at Morrison Avenue while carving an additional entrance at Mountain Avenue, where most of the parking is located.

One advantage of the remodel is that teachers could monitor all three gyms at the same time, versus the new construction option in which one gym would be the existing secondary gym located in a nearby metal outbuilding.

The Ashland Historic Commission has encouraged the district to preserve the existing gym, and students and staff have expressed a sentiment for keeping its old-time looks.

District officials say they also hope to incorporate an indoor track into either design to continue their campaign to fight childhood obesity.

After choosing one of the options, the School Board will select a contractor this summer to work with architects in developing the final design for the project.

Construction is tentatively scheduled for February or March 2008. A total of $19.8 million is earmarked for Ashland High from the bond package.

In addition to the building project, the school will get lighting and alarm upgrades, new flooring, a new electrical system in the English building, upgraded heating and air-conditioning systems, roof and breezeway replacements.

Call Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail

Share This Story