NAC Architecture’s Matt Rumbaugh said the design process started with a question: “What is the right thing to do with Mount Si High School?” A recently passed school bond is allowing that question to be posed and funding the $188 million re-build of the 60-year old sprawling structure.
That question propelled a High School Design Team comprised of 35-40 volunteer parent, teachers, administrators and staff members through two months of meetings and eventually landed them on a design concept called “Elevated Option A,” which was recommended to the school board and unanimously approved on Thursday, June 25, 2015.
During his presentation to the school board, Rumbaugh said the design team considered many ideas for the new Mount Si High School, but in the end they were looking for a design that would be 1) the best long-term solution; 2) reduce construction disruption; 3) create a strong sense of community; 4) engage with the natural environment and views; and 5) offer flexibility.
During the team’s final evaluation of that criteria on June 19th, Elevated Option A, which will construct 90% of the new facility by 2019, was the overwhelming choice.
Rombaugh explained the conceptual design is where “you start to see the shape, but a lot of definition is still to come.”
The concept was partly inspired by New York City’s High Line, a popular city park built on a former elevated train line in the Chelsea neighborhood. When completed, re-built MSHS will be elevated, lifting and securing it out of the flood plain. Rombaugh said the design concept strives to create an experience similar to High Line – making you feel like you’re on the ground, not above it looking down.
The elevated structure (with parking underneath) will be more compact than the current sprawling school, with three distinct entrances – to the school, gym and a performing arts center with seating for 700. Three-story small learning communities (SLC) will be built around a two-story commons area, with one SLC dedicated to freshman adjacent a second, smaller commons area. The school and classrooms will capitalize on the views of Mount Si.
In order to complete the majority of the new structure in one construction phase, the school will be built on the current front parking lot, softball and baseball fields. The fields will be relocated to the opposite end of the property (where current school is located) during the small, second construction phase. The design also allows for a future addition if needed.
Phase one construction is targeted to start in April 2017 and take 27 months, with the new facility opening in September 2019. When finished, the new structure will be roughly the size of five SVSD elementary schools and hold 2,300 students. The second phase would begin in 2019 and would demolish the old school (except gym), and then focus on the parking lots, fields, and gymnasium – and would finish in 2020.
Faster with Less Disruption, Risk
Earlier project estimates had the multi-phase construction lasting until 2022, with only 50-60% of construction being completed by 2019. Building on the current softball and baseball fields, though, allows 90% of the project to be completed in one phase, with less disruption to students and less risk to the district.
Rombaugh explained the design minimizes the risk of rising construction costs, describing it as “time equals money.” The new school’s final price should be estimated when the final schematic design is brought to the school board in October 2015.
SVSD Assistant Superintendent Ryan Stokes, who served on the design team, called the conceptual design “the right answer for the longterm.”
Parent and design team member Chris Alef complimented NAC Architects, saying Rombaugh kept the team on track, but didn’t influence them. He commented that toward the end of the process the team was still evenly split, but the majority “converged” on Elevated Option A once some design modifications were made.
Alef said he enjoyed volunteering on the design team and as the parent of two young children, he “is in it for the long haul.
For more information on the Mount School Re-built, new elementary 6, and other projects funded by the February school bond, visit SVSD’s Facility and Construction webpage.