Two major La Grande High School renovation projects, ones that will touch the lives of not only students but also many theatergoers and sports fans in the community, are nearing completion.

The renovation of the auditorium and gym at LHS should be finished sometime in September, according to La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze. The renovations are among five major bond projects being conducted this summer in the school district.

“There are lots of projects and a lot of excitement,” Glaze said.

The auditorium work should be finished by early September, and the gym work by the third week of September, the superintendent said. The renovation of both is being funded with money from the $31.5 million bond school district voters approved in 2014 for capital construction and maintenance work.

Work that has been completed in the auditorium includes a major expansion of its stage, the installation of new lighting, a much-improved sound system and major work to improve handicap accessibility. Two ramps on both sides of the stage are being installed and concrete work has been completed to provide the foundation for a wheelchair-accessible, flat center aisle.

All of the theater’s seats were removed earlier and will be replaced with more comfortable ones later this month. The seats are now at LHS, said Logan Lankford, a project engineer for CM Company, Inc., of Boise, Idaho, the general contractor for the district’s bond project work.

The auditorium is off limits to the public now, but anyone walking in would be struck by how much better the lighting is.

“(The lighting) was dingy before. Now it looks sharp,” said Joseph Waite, the school district’s bond and facilities manager.

Those walking into the gym will see a new, four-sided scoreboard hanging over center court, brighter white paint and a brand-new floor. The floor is comprised of thousands of interlocking wooden pieces. Assembling the floor has been a labor-intensive process.

“It is not tedious. You get into a groove, but it is long sometimes,” said Alek Jetsel of Soriano Sport Floors of Boise, who helped install the floor.

The new floor will soon be sanded, painted and varnished. Next, the bleachers will be installed on all four sides of the gym.

The gym’s floor sits on a new layer of concrete poured this summer. The concrete work was done to create a more level surface, Lankford said.

A 2012 La Grande High School graduate, Lankford is enjoying the opportunity to help boost his alma mater.

“It is pretty cool to work on the school I went to,” he said.

Gym renovation work will be completed about four weeks into the school year, but this will not cause any major disruptions at LHS. Waite noted that the LHS volleyball team does not have its first home match until late September, and plans have been made for the team to conduct its first month of practices in the annex gym adjacent to
La Grande Middle School.

LHS physical education teachers plan to conduct their classes outdoors until gym renovations are
finished, Waite said.

The gym and auditorium renovations are two of three major bond projects ongoing at LHS. The third involves the construction of a new Career Technical Education building in the southwest portion of campus. The new building will replace an old structure, which was torn down earlier this summer.

Excavation work has started for the new building and utility lines are being put in before the foundation and footing is installed, Lankford said. The initial excavation work for the building was delayed earlier this summer because of unexpected utility lines crews found. The discoveries forced site plans for the building to be reconfigured.

The school district hopes to have the new CTE building completed and ready for classes by early February, Glaze said.

Excavation work is also continuing for the new Central Elementary School at Second Street and H Avenue. Work on the new school started in May and is progressing on schedule.

The building is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2017-18 school year.

“It is right on schedule,” Glaze said.

The new school, being built with $14.1 million in bond money, will replace the current Center Elementary School at 402 K Ave., which was constructed in 1954 and is in need of major repairs.

Major bond project work is also being conducted at Island City Elementary School, where a new gym floor will be installed and seven new classrooms added. The old floor has been removed, but materials for the new floor have been late in being shipped.

“They have been slow in arriving,” Glaze said.

This has slowed work crews, but the superintendent believes the floor may still be installed before classes start at Island City on Aug. 29.

Construction work for the seven new Island City classrooms is starting and will be completed in 2017.

Staff and students returning to their schools can expect to encounter some issues while work is being done, but Glaze said it’s a small price to pay for major benefits down the road.

“There will be some inconvenience to teachers and staff, but it is just temporary. At the end of the day, there will be a vast payoff,” Glaze said.

Contact Dick Mason at 541-786-5386 or . Follow Dick on Twitter