Portage schools get look at enclosing high school walls

2014-04-26T00:00:00Z Portage schools get look at enclosing high school wallsJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Portage High School officials this week got a first look at what Portage High School West could be with interior walls.

Victor Landfair, vice president and an architect with The Skillman Corp. of Merrillville presented a facility study to the school board this past week.

The project, which would be completed in three phases, would cost some $5.3 million, according to the study.

The building was constructed in the 1970s with an open concept on the far west end of the building, surrounding the auditorium. Four classrooms, all enclosed, were created some years ago when the west and east buildings were joined and the two buildings' libraries consolidated.

Presently the school is using only 17 spaces as classrooms, leaving empty spaces between available classrooms to help lessen the noise.

Still, said PHS Assistant Principal Jennifer Sass, a recent survey of staff members indicated that noise is a continuing problem in the building.

In addition to the noise issue, there is a safety issue with the open concept building. Space to place students in case of a crisis or "code red" is limited. Present classrooms cannot be locked down and students would have to be moved to other areas.

If the board decides to move forward with the project, the 42,000 square feet of the building in question, could contain 24 general classrooms, four science classroom/labs, a larger project lab and four extended learning areas.

Landfair recommended the project be completed in three phases as it would take more than one summer to complete. Phasing the project would allow some classrooms to be utilized while others undergo renovation.

He also told the board, it is more than a matter of constructing walls. The building's heating, air conditioning and lighting were designed for open concept and would have to be reconstructed.

Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said last month if the district were to undertake the project, funding would have to be cobbled together, possibly from Rainy Day money and/or the refinancing of present bonds.

The extended learning areas would be extensions of the hallways and are needed to gain access to the classrooms.

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