“You could hang meat in here,” Mary Jo Lewis said, only half-joking, of the old Powell High School on a cold February day. Lewis is the school district’s coordinator of business services, and last week she helped lead contractors through the old school, which is slated for demolition.
Once abuzz on bustling school days as students raced up the stairs to class, the three-story brick building now stands vacant and cold. For nearly six years, it’s been a school without students.
In empty classrooms and dark hallways, remnants from the school’s past life are left behind. A clock hangs lopsided, books and papers lay strewn on the floor in front of a locker, and a janitor’s mop and bucket sit at the end of a hallway. In the third-floor chemistry classroom, a grade sheet from May 23, 2008, remains, detailing exam results.
“Anything that’s left here is going out the door — it’s demo city,” said Bob Brownell, an environmental scientist with Terracon in Billings, a consulting company hired to help with the demolition and abatement project.
“We got everything out that we needed or wanted,” Lewis said.
After salvaging many items in the old building, the school district reused, sold or donated various equipment, furniture and supplies.
While heat and water have been turned off in the three-story portion of the building, Park County School District No. 1 has kept utilities on in the one-story section as it still uses that portion of the facility and will continue to do so into the future.
Bids on the project are due by Feb. 28, and work is scheduled to begin in early April.
“The start date is contingent on how quickly we can work through the contracting process with the (state) School Facilities Department,” said Todd Wilder, the district’s coordinator of support services, in an email Wednesday. “We anticipate that could take up to three weeks. The start date of ‘early April’ gives us some leeway, but that is our target.”
The project involves abatement — removal of asbestos and other materials — of the entire 106,000-square-foot building. Once that’s finished, the three-story section of the building will be demolished.
The one-story section still used by the school district will remain standing and will be remodeled. Renovations for that 26,000-square-foot section include new electrical, plumbing, fire sprinklers and architectural finishes.
That portion of the building has been used for the school district’s Support Services Department and also houses the district warehouse and secure storage facility. The space also is used for the district’s print shop, its IT department offices, workspaces, maintenance shop and District Credit Union.
Some of the section being kept will be renovated to house two “multi-learning spaces” that will support the district’s
Pre-Kindergarten Transition Program, a district training room for educators and staff, a classroom to serve emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students and an in-school suspension room, Wilder said.
“This effectively creates two functional areas to the building — one that is industrial in nature and one that is educational,” he said.
The educational part of the building will have a new entrance off North Evarts Street and a reception area, he said.
A completion date of Sept. 30 has been recommended by the project’s architect, CTA Architects and Engineers.
“This is a complex project with asbestos abatement, demolition, and renovation with that work needing to be done while part of the building is occupied and the necessity to keep our IT infrastructure safe and operating,” Wilder said. “We are more concerned with the work being accomplished efficiently and safely than meeting this deadline, so as the project progresses, we will continue to evaluate that target completion date and be flexible to extend if there is good cause.”
Once the three-story portion is demolished, the school district will use that property as green space with grass and trees.
The old Powell High School housed students through the 2008 school year, but the building’s cafeteria and kitchen were used through 2012 for middle school students. A new addition to Powell Middle School completed in 2012 features a cafeteria and kitchen.
The Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees is set to consider bids for the high school project at its March 11 meeting. School district staff and CTA will review bids and provide their recommendation to the board at that time, and an official bid award is slated to be issued on March 12, Wilder said.
Though the project entails both demolition and renovation, it will be awarded to one general contractor, who will be responsible for abatement, demolition and renovation.
“We felt this was important due to the need to coordinate all of these efforts, which could be going on simultaneously at times,” Wilder said.
Around 30 people attended the contractors’ walk-through of the old building on Feb. 12.