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Sunnyside High construction project still on deadline

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The second of two phases to remodel Sunnyside High School includes stripping portions of the existing building down to studs and beams for a complete modernization to meet current code standards.

Progress is evident inside and out on the remodel and construction project underway at Sunnyside High School.

The two-year project is about 60 percent complete and is still on track to wrap up in time for the start of the 2012-13 school year, says school district spokesman Curtis Campbell.

Campbell said carrying out a construction project at the high school while classes are in session is a "delicate dance." He said while it's important to get the building work done, it's even more important for students and staff to do their work.

Making accommodations for students in the midst of construction, for example, includes delivering meals to the school while the kitchen is being renovated.

Also, while the high school library space is being renovated, the library has moved to a temporary home in a new two-story building constructed on the campus over the past year. Known as the 300 building, it has 19 new classrooms available, plus office space. Two of the classrooms are for now being used to house the library. Braven Bendzak is helping to coordinate the remodel at SHS, and he says the 300 building is, except for a few finishing touches, complete.

Work underway now includes modernizing the existing high school building.

"It is most simply described as bringing the existing high school building into compliance with current codes, enhancing the mechanical and electrical systems to be more energy efficient and providing new long-lasting durable finishes throughout," Bendzak says.

The changes will also include greatly expanding the commons seating area.

Bendzak some work will have to wait until summer to be completed, such as renovations to the gym and auditorium, because the areas are currently in use.

With work going on all-around as day-to-day high school activities take place, staff and students have also had to adapt.

Holly Ohler is the high school's career and technical education director, and she says students are adapting well.

"Students continue to be focused on graduation, despite the distractions around them," she said. "The paths to lunch are much farther for them, yet they continue to impress us with the positive attitudes."

Ohler noted the educational process is disrupted less this school year than last, when classrooms had to be emptied to start the new construction.

As for staff, she says they are also adapting well.

"Many staff have moved into their new, permanent classrooms and have settled in nicely," Ohler said. "Much of the work that remains in the classrooms is the finishing work, like blinds."

She added, "Most staff look forward to the finished product and realize that the construction phase is only temporary."

Bendzak said he has been impressed with the response from students, staff and the community as the district works to finish the second of two phases of the SHS remodel.

"High school modernization and addition projects can be very stressful for all parties involved, especially when conducted on an occupied site with a two-year duration," Bendzak said. "The Sunnyside School District staff, administration, students and parents have been very understanding."

He's eager for the community to see the finished product in August 2012.

"We are excited to provide continual updates and look forward to when we can open up to the public for an open house," Bendzak said.

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