The future is almost in perfect focus for students, teachers and staff in the North Powder School District.

The construction of the school district’s new high school classroom building and gym is less than a month from being completed.

“There is a lot of excitement and curiosity,” said Lance Dixon, North Powder School District superintendent.

Construction crews are expected to be finished with all work for the high school and gym by the end May. The work being done now includes painting stripes on the gym floor and electrical projects.

After the end of May, the project’s contractor, McCormack Construction Company of Pendleton, will do paving work on Fourth Street between the high school and elementary school campuses. This work is expected to be done by June 14. At this time, all construction will be completed.

“We will start moving in June 17,” Dixon said.

The process of moving in will be a slow and careful one. No more than two classrooms will be moved at a time from the old high school. All teachers will be in their classrooms by the time school starts Sept. 3, Dixon said.

Dixon also said the project is coming in under budget. Some of the extra money not spent on construction, he said, will be used for the Fourth Street paving work.

Project manager Joseph Hull, an owner of McCormack Construction, said a big reason the project is coming in under budget is that the North Powder School District used a contract manager/general contractor system to coordinate the work. Hull said the system allowed his company to provide greater input to the school district on construction planning and budgeting throughout the building process.

“It made a remarkable difference,” Hull said. “It really is the way to succeed.”

Dixon said the construction has gone smoothly because McCormack Construction has been excellent to work with at every phase of the project.

“It has been a great process,” he said.

Dixon said others who played key roles in the success of the project include Scott Marshall of Straightline Architects of Boise, Idaho, and John Frieboes, the North Powder School District’s facilities manager.

Hull said his company was aided greatly by the mild early winter weather the region experienced. This allowed items like sidewalks and underground utilities to be put in during December and January before the ground froze in February.

Had harsh weather hit early in the winter instead of late, it would have been far from ideal.

“We would have had to stop (work on ground-related projects),” Hull said. “It would have shut down our momentum.”

The new high school, about 100 feet west of the present one, is a one-story structure that is connected to the gym. Hull said this connection is a plus because it allows the high school and the gym to share an entrance, which he called “an efficient use of space.”

The new high school has 13 classrooms, including a science room that will house lab space, an art room that will have a kiln for making pottery, and a home economics/life skills room.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer