Bozeman High School Renovation Project Gets Earlier Start Date Amid Pandemic
While the city of Bozeman, like much of the country, has faced lockdown situations in light of the coronavirus, Bozeman High School has found a shimmer of hope in its construction schedule of all places; that is, construction was able to start in the building four weeks early. Principal Dan Mills calls it “the one silver lining in all of this.”
Construction was able to begin a full month early, with classes canceled at the high school due to the pandemic and summer camps relocated for the season ahead of time, as per facility-use agreements. This allowed the engineering firms, who were contracted by the school to complete the construction, to focus on parts of the project that will make the rest of construction go more smoothly. Construction is one of the few industries that has experienced very limited delays in light of the coronavirus pandemic, since there are fewer pedestrians occupying work spaces across the board. “They get to start some of the pre-work for demolition,” explained Mills.
Schools in Bozeman have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 16th, almost three months ahead of the usual June end date for classes across the school district. The earlier start on renovations has meant that the construction companies involved have had extra time to get a head start on essential spaces, like offices, so the building can return to operations sooner than originally planned. The renovations had been slated to start on June 15th, but now they have been moved up to the second week of May. The work on Bozeman High School is expected to wrap up in the Fall of 2022 -- hopefully, well after the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. However, this extra time allowed by the earlier start of construction has benefits now, as the project managers have an excess of time to organize and prepare.
This construction project is happening on Bozeman High School’s main campus, located at the west end of Main Street, at the intersection with 11th Ave. It means that some classrooms will have to rearrange locations in order to accommodate construction, with most classes moving to the North Campus of the building, which will remain untouched throughout construction. “We’ll get everything we can done as quickly as possible,” said Mills, adding, “We never intended to interrupt the school year.” The school will also, as a result of the project, get a new auditorium that has seats for 750 people, and a new Student Commons area for students to mingle during the day, as well as hold dances and community events.
A number of architecture, design, and engineering firms are working on this project. At the school, most of the coordination on the project is done by Facility Director Todd Swinehart and Deputy Superintendent of Operations Steve Johnson, in conjunction with principal Dan Mills. They communicate with the construction companies working on campus and keep things running smoothly inside the building. The project should not interfere with any athletic programs that hold practices at the school over the summer; those practices are currently scheduled to start in August, despite lingering concerns about the coronavirus in Montana. “Everything in future months is an item of interest,” said Mills.
The new project is intended to improve classroom designs in the South Campus, which underwent a $29 million renovation project in 2010, but as Mills says, “There are areas of this campus that still need to be renovated.” This new project expands upon the past renovations, creating new spaces for learning and innovating on the part of the Bozeman High School student body. This project has been in the works since before Mills arrived at Bozeman High School last year, and to him, “The whole thing has been so exciting. It’s just been constant excitement.”
Dan Mills Q&A:
CR: Which company is responsible for the construction?
DM: Langlas & Associates is the main contractor for the entire project. That’s great news for Bozeman High, and we are fortunate to work with a company with such a strong reputation. Additionally, Cushing Terrell is playing an integral role in the architecture and design for the project.
CR: What day did it officially begin?
DM: The COVID school closure allowed Langlas to begin pre-demolition work earlier than expected. Our faculty was able to move items out of the affected wings in early May, and work began to prepare for demolition the week of May 18.
CR: Will it be noisy when school starts?
DM: We certainly anticipate some unavoidable construction noise, as this is such a large project. However, most of our classes will be held in areas of the building away from the main construction. We will work with Langlas consistently to ensure that our students’ educational experience is not adversely affected by the construction.
CR: Will there be issues with parking?
DM: Parking should not be affected by construction. Actually, with many students moving to Gallatin High to begin the 2020-21 school year, will have more student parking than ever. This will be a welcome relief for our students.
CR: Where can we hear developing information on construction?
DM: In addition to staying tuned to local media for updates, there is always information available on the Bozeman School District website.
CR: What was the budget like for this project?
DM: The budget for a renovation project like this is large and has been in development and under review for multiple years. Additionally, this project was able to reduce its budget during the middle of the 2019-20 school year. Information about the budget can be found on the BSD website, and these decisions always involve the Board of Trustees and central office administration.
CR: Where does the funding for construction mostly come from?
DM: For more information on funding and budgets, I would defer to Deputy Superintendent of Operations Steve Johnson, who has extensive knowledge of the bond process that allowed the BHS renovation to become possible.
CR: Who picks the designs for new buildings?
DM: Cushing Terrell and Langlas work with our Facilities Director Todd Swinehart to develop design proposals for new buildings. These proposals are presented to our Board of Trustees.
CR: Is your office being rebuilt?
DM: My specific office on North Campus will remain untouched. There is a bit of renovation taking place in the offices adjacent to mine, where we are creating a larger conference room which will be more welcoming for our student and family meetings.
CR: What part of the construction are you the most excited for?
DM: I am very excited about every aspect of this project. It is a unique opportunity as a school administrator to be part of a renovation like this. I am excited for the aesthetics and functionalities that the renovated campus will provide for our students.
Steve Johnson and Todd Swinehart Q&A:
CR: How do you think that the Bozeman High School Community will benefit from this project?
SJ: As we were planning for the project, there was a lot of community discussion about the pros and cons of separating our very successful high school into two schools. One of the main benefits that was constantly mentioned was providing additional opportunities for students to participate. The schools will be about 1200 students each after the split, which is large enough to provide several diverse opportunities and small enough to provide more students opportunity to participate in activities and athletics. The community of Bozeman stepped up in a big way to provide two great high schools, and we work everyday to make sure they are proud of what they have provided.
TS: Along the way, we have always held true to our ‘parity and equal’ guiding principle to make sure that both schools would deliver and provide the same opportunities to our students regardless of the location. As we are wrapping up the Gallatin High Project, we are gearing up to start the Bozeman High renovation.
CR: What has your involvement in this project been like?
SJ: Fun and challenging. I have always said I would rather work in a community that has the challenges of keeping up with growth than one that is going the opposite direction. In my time in Bozeman, I have seen both enrollment increases and decreases. Dealing with the student enrollment increases and building to accommodate them is way better than closing schools.
TS: It’s been an awesome adventure. Very rarely are you offered the challenge of seeing something like this go from concept to reality, all the while navigating the daily balance of educational requirements, community needs and requests, building codes, etc., with the overall responsibility of managing the budget. A lot of time and effort was involved prior to the first shovel ever being put in the ground, which has definitely paid off in the long run.
CR: What’s something you’re really looking forward to about the new construction?
SJ: Both Bozeman High School and Gallatin High School are going to be wonderful teaching and learning facilities, something that the community can take pride in for years to come.
TS: I am really looking forward to seeing students access and use all of the great learning spaces that we’ve been able to create with the new school. And in time, we will have been able to accomplish the same with the planned renovations to Bozeman High School, which are scheduled to get kicked-off soon.
This fall students from both Bozeman High School’s will have a lot of new halls to roam, and the labor of our community leaders in education will begin to be appreciated by incoming and returning learners.