Pullman High School begins two-year reconstruction project

Chad Sokol | Evergreen reporter

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Architects and city officials ceremonially broke ground yesterday evening on the reconstruction of Pullman High School, a two-and-a-half-year project that will completely transform the school’s look and functionality.

The project, which has a total budget of $55 million, will increase the size of the buildings to accommodate up to 1,000 students. The school currently holds between 550 and 650.

“It’s going to be a metamorphosis,” said Steve McNutt of NAC Architecture, the firm that designed the new campus. “It’s not a remodel.”

With a $14 million contribution from Washington state, Pullman approved a bond for the project in February 2013.

“For Pullman, this is major,” said Jim Evermann, the president of the school district’s board of directors. “It signifies that the community has come together to make this happen.”

Evermann said the reconstruction will improve “virtually everything” about the school, including issues of safety. He noted that one building has more than 60 entrances, making it relatively vulnerable in some emergency situations.

Other issues involve building codes and energy use.

Because school will remain in session, the reconstruction will take place amid swaths of bustling students.

“It’s going to be a mess at a few points along the way,” said Keith Comes of NAC, the principal designer on the project.

“But we’ve compartmentalized the mess a little bit,” added McNutt, the principal architect.

The project will take place in roughly three major phases, from the front to the back of the school. Evermann said the new layout will direct foot traffic toward the interior of the campus.

Randy Wilson, the principal project manager, said the first phase of construction will result in a new gym, a performing arts center, one wing of classrooms and a student commons area.

The second and third phases will result in the other two classroom wings, a library and outdoor landscape development. Each wing will be attached to a central “spine” building with main entrances at either end.

Workers have already begun to dismantle parts of the existing entrance building, which will move forward toward the parking lot during reconstruction.

“There’s been a little bit of construction going on, but really the bulk of the project doesn’t start until next week,” said Paul Sturm, superintendent of the Pullman school district.

City officials hatched the plan to reconstruct the high school about six years ago, while searching for potential new locations. They determined it was more feasible to keep the current location on Military Hill, as the school’s sports facilities would have been difficult to relocate.

Regardless, Evermann said, the buildings need updating: “The community expects its students to be taught in a nice facility.”

Sturm added, “It’ll be a little difficult for the next couple years, but we’ll just have to keep our eye on the prize.”​