by Frances Potts
Sunnyside's new middle school got off to a quick start with ground broken Aug. 22 just days after the school district accepted the $12,127,420 bid from the only bidder, Chervenell Construction Co. out of Kennewick.
In only 14 days the completed walls of the 8,363 square-foot gymnasium were casting shadows on the barren 20 acres on Washout Road.
Construction on the 77,794 square-foot school started with the gym rather than with what would seem to be the most important part of an educational facility, the classrooms. That's because Dick Loofburrow Architects of Yakima developed a plan in which the gym anchors a horseshoe of classrooms that will partially wrap around it when they are completed.
The gym towers 34 feet 8 inches, and will reach 8 feet 8 inches above the school's other wings. Its slightly sloping roof will not be seen from the ground.
Last week Rich Barger, superintendent of the project for Chervenell Construction, was waiting for steel trusses to be delivered so the roof could be completed.
"We're going as fast as we can go; we really are, and trying to beat the winter," said Barger. "It's a problem just keeping the suppliers up with us. And the hurricanes (in the south) are taking a toll on us. Materials are going there, and everything's taking a hike in price."
The rapid erection of the gym was accomplished with nine masons and two electricians, Barger said.
All of the school's utilities will be underground, and the construction so far reflects that.
"You won't see any power poles," said Braven Bendzak, appointed by the school district to be its liaison with the contractor. "All the utilities-plumbing, water, electric, telephone, fiber optics, gas-feed in from underground."
In addition to construction of the gym's exterior walls and the interior floor slab, progress, to date, includes completion of footings and slabs for the sixth grade wing, with underground utilities in place, and the same for the seventh grade wing, the office and food service areas and the commons.
Footings for the girls' and boys' locker rooms and the mechanical and electrical plant are pending, but the floor slab for the seventh grade wing was scheduled to be completed by today (Friday, Sept. 30).
Although floor slabs have been poured, the curing process is time-consuming as the slabs are dried slowly under damp, felt coverings.
The gym's floor of tongue and groove maple wood on wood sleepers with rubber mounts that will allow the floor to float and expand, is estimated to take 40 days to complete. Painting the gym is estimated to take 20 days.
Carol Brandt, interior designer for the architect, is coordinating all of the colors for paint and carpets. "She is doing some really nice things with the colors," said Bendzak. The exterior of the building will be gray and buckskin.
Selection of the various materials has been an intricate process, according to Bendzak. He emphasized that experience with previous school construction has led to some choices. "We know what works and what doesn't, what lasts and what doesn't," he said.
"When you build a school, a lot of history goes into it and a lot of expertise."