The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

New middle school project meets a milestone

Committee selects a building plan to present to officials


Valdez is one step closer to actually building a new middle school after the committee formed to guide the long-running process selected a preliminary “concept design” to present to city, school and state officials for approval.

“This is a concept design,” architect Tracey Vanairsdale told the committee. “It is 10 percent complete.”

Vanairsdale, of the firm Bettisworth North Architects and Planners, presented three different building concepts to the committee, and explained the basic features and ideas behind each of the plans and show how each would fit on the current site.

The committee selected the only single story design presented by the firm, which was hired by the City of Valdez at a cost of $260,701. The contract specifies the firm will guide city officials through the process of getting state approval for the educational specifications of the building and through the bonding process, which must get voter approval before actual construction can begin.

The building must meet or exceed educational specifications required by the state board of education in order to qualify for state funding of the project that will cover 60 to 70 percent of the construction costs.

“I’m excited that we’re seeing forward movement,” Jacob Jensen, superintendent of Valdez City Schools, said in an interview after the committee meeting that was held last Thursday. “I am excited about that.”

The preliminary plan selected was one of three designed by the architectural firm based on ideas and rough drafts designed by the committee late last year. The criteria set by the committee for the design mandated it be a distinctly separate building from Valdez High School and will be a middle school for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Many educators on the committee expressed concerns regarding the separation issue and stressed the need to keep as large a physical barrier between younger female students at the middle school and males from the high school.

City manager John Hozey is making a push to receive city and state approval of the design specifications in order to have real cost estimates available to the public so that bond funding can be approved or voted down in the upcoming elections this coming October.

No actual estimates on new construction costs are currently available on the selected design concept.

The architects are expected to refine the selected design and a special meeting between the board of education and city council is set for Thursday, March 8 at City Council Chambers to approve the design.

“It’s really not our project,” Jensen noted after Thursday’s meeting.

Valdez Star photo

Architect Charles Bettesworth explains the features of proposed blue prints for a new middle school during a committee meeting Thursday.

School administrators and city officials have sometimes banged heads over the fact the City of Valdez actually owns all schools and administrative buildings in the district, while the district actually run and maintain the buildings on a day to day basis.

Valdez voters approved a $16 million plus bond to build a new middle school and other big ticket items such as a new high school roof about ten years ago. However, after consulting with architects and state officials, it was determined the approved bond was not enough money to actually cover the costs of constructing a new school.

The long-running process to replace the aging school gained forward momentum after city officials commissioned a report on the state and condition of city-owned buildings. Gilson Jr. High School was found to be substandard and in need of millions of dollars of renovations and remodeling to comply with modern safety codes.


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