Community Education

Learning, construction happening simultaneously at Peninsula middle schools

Posted on March 17th, 2022 By:

Kopachuck Middle School students ran in from recess on March 10 along a walkway bordered by a tall chain-link fence.

On the other side, the metal framework of a large, new structure was taking shape day by day.

The building, destined to become the new school entrance and administrative wing, is part of a $33 million renovation and expansion underway at the school. A similar upgrade, pegged for an estimated $35.1 million, is going on simultaneously at Key Peninsula Middle School.

Kopachuck Middle School students enter the school near a chain link fence marking an area under construction. Kopachuck and Key Peninsula Middle School are being upgraded with funds from the district’s 2019 bond.

Both projects were made possible with money from a $198.55 million bond passed in 2019, along with state construction funds. But they were not the top-priority bond projects. The district, nearing completion on four new elementary schools, announced that a combination of cost-saving factors would allow for renovation its two oldest middle schools, as well.

Both are on budget and on track to wrap up as planned by spring of 2023.

Creativity and flexibility

The projects haven’t required any temporary closure of schools, but they have required creativity on the part of construction crews and flexibility on the part of students.

“The contractors have temporary walls up to block off the construction area from classrooms where the kids are learning,” explained Patrick Gillespie, the district’s director of facilities. “Throughout the project, those temporary walls will move and be displaced as different phases go on.”

Workers and students don’t come into direct contact.

Crews at Kopachuck are wrapping up renovation of classrooms in the 200 Wing. During this phase, two new classrooms were added, one of which has a stunning view of the sound visible in the distance beyond a vista of evergreen trees.

Patrick Gillespie, Peninsula School District’s director of facilities, shows renovation underway at Kopachuck Middle School on Thursday, March 10, 2022. The school and Key Peninsula Middle School are being upgraded with funds from the district’s 2019 bond.

Gillespie, on a walk-through, showed a temporary wall which students have decorated with a large colorful poster. The barrier will come down within the next month as the renovated classrooms reopen and another part of the building, the science wing, is closed off.

“I think the kids are doing great,” Gillespie said. “I think kids are resilient and they just roll with it, as have the staff. They’ve been amazing. You know, this is probably very difficult for them to lose classroom space and teachers are probably displaced, parts are moving around. And we really appreciate the staff, as well as the students and our community. So, it’s been a little extra effort on their part, but they’ve all be amazing.”

The new administration wing will create an attractive and more secure entrance to the school. The current admin area, adjacent to the commons, will become classrooms plus a multi-purpose area with “café seating” for studying or other activities. The commons will stay where it is but get an overhaul like other areas.

The gym will be closed from June through summer and into September for its make-over, meaning activities will be moved to fields and basketball courts outside, weather permitting.

4 new classrooms at Key Peninsula

Key Peninsula Middle School is on a similar phasing schedule and timeline. One difference is, Key Peninsula will get four new classrooms instead of two and with a larger gym already, their space will become a full two-court gym.

The renovation will brighten classrooms, hallways and common spaces with attractive colors and new lighting. The plumbing, roofing, HVAC systems and electrical will all be upgraded. The exterior design of both buildings by TCF Architecture will feature metal siding and concrete “tilt” panels with accent painting to complement the interior.

“One of the things we heard from our communities, they said their buildings look a lot like prisons,” Gillespie said. “So, we’ve been tasked with, how do we make them look more conducive to learning environments, more professional, but yet fun?”

In a separate project, the district is running new fiberoptic cable throughout the district, which will improve internet access for both schools.

“When we’re done, they’re going to get an amazing newly remodeled school that will have new finishes, new infrastructure and a much better facility for years to come,” Gillespie said.

Moving quickly

The district was able to move forward with the middle school projects because rapid design and permitting of the elementary schools helped avoid some expected inflation costs.

The purchase of the Boys & Girls Club to create the new Pioneer Elementary was a big time and money saver, key to an accelerated construction schedule on the elementary schools.

In addition, the district got more state construction assistance for Swift Water Elementary than it expected. The district is using developer’s impact fees and investment interest from the bond to supplement project costs.

Peninsula has long-range plans to address high school facilities, but that would require another bond, according to district officials.

The 2019 bond

Bond funding available: $198.55 million
State construction “match”: $37.19 million
Bond interest funds: $1.64 million
City & county impact fees: $6.9 million

Key Peninsula Middle School

Jeri Goebel, principal

Design: TCF Architecture

Expected completion: Spring 2023

Estimated cost: $35.1 million

Kopachuck Middle School

Heidi Fedore, principal

Design: TCF Architecture

Expected completion: Spring 2023

Estimated cost: $33 million

Students eat lunch in the cafeteria of Kopachuck Middle School on Thursday, March 10, 2022, with a temporary wall visible in the foreground. The school and Key Peninsula Middle School are being upgraded with funds from the district’s 2019 bond.