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February 29, 2024

High school replacement among projects on $650M Tacoma bond

Photos by Casey Madison, Tacoma Public Schools [enlarge]
Tacoma’s IDEA High School, built in 1912 as Park Elementary School, is being replaced as part of a $650 million school construction bond.

A replacement for IDEA High School is among the improvements in the works for Tacoma Public Schools after voters there passed a $650 million bond measure earlier this month. In all, the district plans to replace or renovate 11 aging school sites.

The 2024 Neighborhood School Improvements & Safety Upgrades Bond will also fund building improvements and health and safety upgrades, expanded career and technical education, field and turf upgrades, and will create a central district kitchen.

A new building is planned for the IDEA High School at 6701 S. Park Ave., which serves high schoolers from across the district studying industrial design, engineering and art. The current building was built in 1912 as an elementary school. Also getting replacement buildings are Point Defiance Elementary, serving North End preschool through fifth graders, and DeLong Elementary and Stanley Elementary, serving Central Tacoma preschool through fifth graders. Whitman Elementary, built in 1951 in Tacoma's South End neighborhood, is on Tacoma's Register of Historic Places so it cannot be entirely replaced. The district plans a historic modernization similar to those recently completed at Washington Elementary and Edna Travis Elementary.

Building disrepair can be seen in the background at Tacoma’s IDEA High School, where students from across the district study industrial design, engineering and art.

Major renovations are also on the way at Franklin Elementary and Hilltop Heritage Middle School, and at Silas High School, where the district plans to tear down and replace a classroom wing and make envelope improvements on its pool building. The district's central administration building will get building envelope and seismic improvements, and various improvements are planned for its professional development center and its West End swing site (formerly Skyline Elementary).

Tacoma Public Schools is looking for a good location for a new centralized kitchen where higher-quality and fresher meal options can be prepared and delivered to students across the district. The plan is to build on existing district land or other public land, and the kitchen could be a new building, a remodel, or an addition to existing space, according to a district spokesperson. The new central kitchen will include cold and dry central storage and industrial cooking facilities, and will also serve as a hub for meal distribution.

The bond's passage also means moving onto Phase 2 for the maritime skills center currently being developed as part of a Port of Tacoma waterfront campus and operated by Tacoma Public Schools. The center is focused on priming students for work in the maritime industry.

Schools across the district will also get roof and mechanical upgrades, and field and turf work is planned for three middle schools and at Lincoln, Mount Tahoma, Silas, and Stadium high schools.

The first of these newly funded school replacement projects will likely go out for bid in 2026 using the design-build method, according to a district spokesperson.

Work funded by the $535 million school construction bond Tacoma voters passed in 2020 is underway at Lowell Elementary School, awarded to the team of BCRA Design and Korsmo Construction in January. The DJC reported that project is anticipated to be approximately 50,000 square feet and house around 500 students.

BCRA and Korsmo also made up the design-build team for the new Boze Elementary that opened in 2020, and BCRA also designed Hunt Middle School, a replacement school that opened in 2021. Korsmo was the general contractor for the replacement of Downing Elementary School, completed in 2022, and the renovation of athletic fields and sports facilities at Lincoln High, completed this month.

A replacement for Whittier Elementary School, also funded by the 2020 bond measure, will go out for bid in 2025.

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