School Officials Break Ground on New Auburn High School

AUBURN, Wash. — Administrators commemorated the Auburn High School reconstruction and modernization project last Sunday with a groundbreaking ceremony for the new school set to open in September 2014.

Lydig Construction Inc. — awarded an $80.6 million contract for the project — began construction the very next morning.

The new Auburn High School will be a marriage of the ornate Greco-roman detail of the original 1950 building with a contemporary design to embrace newer tech-savvy methods of teaching, said lead designer Brent Compton, AIA, LEED AP of NAC Architecture.

“The community wanted Auburn High School to be timeless in its design,” Compton said. “It utilizes the mechanical systems and has a contemporary approach yet the building has a classic architectural order.”

The project was largely made possible by the voter approved Auburn High School Modernization and Reconstruction bond, which allocated $110 million to the reconstruction.

“As soon as people understood that we were in need they rallied around it,” said Auburn High School Principal Richard Zimmerman.

Decorated with precast detail pieces and columns, Compton and lead architect Guy Overman, AIA, LEED AP, decided they would maintain the archetypal Greco-roman element of the school without sacrificing a modern design system.

“The idea of having all these up-to-date mechanics but trying to keep that classic architectural order can be difficult,” Compton said. “Those two sometimes want to fight each other.”

Due to the historical importance of the high school, Overman said, the main entrance of the school will be located at its original 1927 location on Main Street.

The performing arts center and automotive technology building will remain on campus, though each building will undergo modernization. The theater will receive new lighting, a new lobby, new ceilings and renovations will be made to the stage and balcony in order to make them handicap accessible.

The school currently consists of seven buildings with 83 points of entry, which affects both the safety and overall atmosphere of AHS, Zimmerman said.

“It will be fantastic to have the entire school under one roof,” said Zimmerman. “Right now we have a whole hodge-podge of buildings.”

The new building will have two monitored points of entry which will allow school officials to spend less time patrolling and concentrate on education.

Because the school district also bought neighboring properties and opted for a three-story building, enough space was created to include a new softball field, doubled parking capability and include a bus-loading zone in the design.

The high school had previously undergone a costly string of renovations, which Compton described as a “series of Band-Aids”, in an attempt to maintain the aging building. But the nine buildings that formerly made up Auburn High School were simply past their use for life, Overman said.

“It was phased and phased and phased, but it was just time to start over,” Overman said. “We have them in a school that will allow them to flourish now.”
Superintendent Kip Herren said the school will save $300,000 annually in maintenance costs and $77,000 annually by fixing energy inefficiencies.

Students will remain on campus during the approximate 19-month construction but because construction will take part on the south side of campus, occupied by a baseball field and parking lot, disruption will be minimal.

It was also essential to reconstruct the building in the interest of student equity, as AHS is the last high school in Auburn School District to be reconstructed, Zimmerman said.

“The students at Auburn High School will now have the same access to technologies as students and staff at other high schools,” Zimmerman said.