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Board meets to discuss plans for transforming the current junior high into a middle school

More than six years after his dreams for refurbishing aged school buildings in Banks first took shape, Pete Edison, chairman of the district’s Facilities Planning Committee, is seeing them come full circle.

Improvements to the local high school — including seismic upgrades, plumbing and roof repairs, a monitored fire system and a remodel of existing classroom space — will begin in June 2013 and finish up before students return to class that September.

Creation of an emergency access road adjacent to Banks Elementary from Oaks Way awaits permits and re-zoning from the city but “will be completed” next summer, according to Superintendent Bob Huston.

And the big one, transforming the junior high into a middle school by way of a gigantic remodel, also is taking shape. With construction due to start next June and a proposed completion date of March 2014, the town’s reverie is becoming a reality.

“To see it heading that way is very exciting,” Edison said Sunday, noting that initial discussions about how to update sagging school buildings in Banks first occurred in 2006.

In a fourth attempt at the polls last May, Banks voters finally approved a $10.5 million construction bond levy to gird up school campuses. Within two years, rusted-out pipes, leaky roofs, antiquated heating systems and asbestos-plagued walls will all be gone.

In their place, at the middle school level at least, will be a brand-new 26,000-square-foot two-level classroom wing, along with a larger library, computer lab space and a re-worked front office area.

Current sixth-graders will move from the grade school to the middle school by fall 2014 if construction stays on track, which Edison believes it will.

“The middle school design currently is ahead of the high school design,” he said. “It’s going to be a great building, and the citizens of the school district are going to be real pleased.”

About $3.5 million will be spent on projects at the high school and elementary school, with $7 million left to complete a comprehensive overhaul of the junior high.

Ongoing plans

Edison and other citizen members of three committees most invested in transforming the junior high and the high school — the Bond Core Management Team, the Middle School Design Team and the High School Design Team — heard reports during a special session of the Banks School Board last week.

The groups will get together again this afternoon at 3:15 p.m. to map out further details for the bond-funded projects, noted Huston.

Edison, who’s on the core management team, and Ron Frame, a fellow member of the original Facilities Planning Committee that dates back to 2006, were in on the ground floor for all of the plans.

“They have been exceptionally diligent, dedicated and hard-working long-term members of the (team),” Huston said.

On Thursday, board members approved the middle school floor plan, whose construction will be overseen by DLR Group of Portland, an architectural design firm. Tonight’s work session agenda includes reports on the scope of the high school project and a review of all school bond projects to date.

Students in grades seven and eight will be housed in portable classrooms during the 2013-14 academic year when construction is ongoing. Then, in fall 2014, the plan is to move those students, and former sixth-graders, into the new building.

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