Community invited to celebrate new Tahoma High School dedication

It’s big and spacious, it’s beautiful in its simple lines, it’s chock-full of history that honors the distant past as well as not-so-distant past, it’s a reminder of the beauty of nature Maple Valley is known for and it’s full of reminders of Bear Pride: Welcome to the new, 21st Century Tahoma High School.
The new Tahoma High School is a marvel to behold while mind boggling as to how architects were able to design a structure that can house so many varying academic disciplines under one roof while still giving a feeling of roominess, which will soon be filled with young inquiring minds as of Wednesday, September 6 when school begins. Here are some fun fast facts regarding the new high school:

  • Interior of building (321,325 square feet) – enough to park 7 Boeing 787 Dream liners inside;
  • Concrete (9,400 cubic yards) – 940 concrete trucks were kept busy hauling the mud;
  • Structural steel and rebar (1,951 tons) – enough to make up 848 Tesla model “S” cars;
  • Plumbing pipe (36,500 linear feet) – placing pipe end to end would run approximately 7 miles;
  • Ductwork – 576,000 pounds or 288 tons.

It was also interesting to note that 150,340 cubic yards of earth were moved on site, equaling 12,528 truckloads. Of the earth moved, none was taken off site and none was imported.

Taking a look at the interior, one finds a first-class Preforming Arts Center complete with a huge stage area and orchestra pit, rigging that can deal with a number of backdrops, and seating for 600 people. The facility also can be divided into three lecture rooms, using retractable walls.

Professional theatrical manager, Paul Rempfer, will run the theater. Rempfer was also instrumental as a consultant in the designing the theater. Students will be a big part of operating everything from lighting to sound to rigging, along with set designs, stagecraft and much more. The first year of theater work will be limited to school performances that will include fall and winter productions as well as a spring musical.

Auditions for the first announced theatrical production – Our Town by American playwright Thornton Wilder – will take place for the students the first full week of school. Community use will begin sometime in 2018 and Rempfer said he expects the facility will be put to frequent use.

Dressing rooms, band and choir rooms also located in the backstage area will make for quick entrances to the stage for performances after dressing and warm-up. Inside the band rooms are good number of lockers where students can place instruments for safe keeping. The band/choir area also comes with two soundproof practice rooms where students can practice their instruments and singing without disturbing others.

Other first-class areas of education come with a robotics lab, video production classroom with topnotch computers for editing and producing videos, and a huge shop area complete with an auto shop just waiting for students to learn the art of making cars/trucks work better again. Also included in the shop area is a welding/manufacturing area and fabrication lab. And despite living in a world of computers, there is room enough in the midst of all the hustle bustle of school life for a spacious, well-lit library with books to enjoy leafing through as well as reading.

The west end of the school is where the school’s athletics facilities are located. There are three gyms – one large gym with a capacity of 2000 for basketball/volleyball games plus more that can be seated on the floor when needed for assemblies; a smaller gym complete with climbing wall; and a smaller gym for wrestling practice. Locker rooms include large lockers for students with large equipment to store as well as smaller lockers. The athletic area also comes complete with a weight room that could rival some private gyms. And for those athletes who wish to sit in an ice bath – there are two hydro tubs just waiting to be used in the athletic training room.

Athletic fields include a soccer, football, baseball/softball fields, tennis courts, and track. While JV football will be played on the new high school field, the varsity team will continue to play in Maxwell Stadium at the old high school, which has become Maple View Middle School. Swimmers will continue to train and hold meets at the Covington Aquatic Center.

Along with the specialized areas of the school, there are three floors of classrooms with special open lounging areas for students to socialize and to do individual or group study. While there are some elevators, students will have to put on their walking/hiking shoes as the elevators are reserved for students with special needs.

Thinking of special-needs students, the Transition Program for developmentally disabled students shares the campus in two brand new portable buildings near the athletic fields. This program is designed for special-needs students 18-21 years old. It teaches them job skills and how to live independently. Among those skills is learning how to use Metro transit and to obtain job skills. Students are transported to jobs in district vans, including surplus King County vans that are donated to the district.

Back at the main building, of the many special features throughout the building are the polished concrete floors and all LED lighting, which will save money on maintenance and energy costs. Other features include historical pictures of the area here and there along with wood benches that were made from trees cut down from the property in order to make way for the new complex.

On the wall of a rustic conference room near the office, there is a section on the wall with the number “18” stenciled on it. It is an actual piece of the last old portable removed from the grounds of the old high school. And while the wooden slab conference table is keeping with the rustic theme, it was not a piece specifically taken from the property. However, look beneath the table top and find the special legs of the table, which form the letter “T” for Tahoma, created by 9th-grade students. And to foster a sense of pride in their school, there are bear logos placed here and there throughout the building – including on the glass mural by the east entrance office (see if you can find it!).

One other special feature out of the mix of the general population of students and teachers is an outside covered slab of concrete in the southwest corner of the building. It is a very special stamped/colored slab that was quietly donated as general contractor Skanska’s special gift to the project for the district.

Because the campus is closed after the morning bell sounds, students will have school lunch choices with grab and go salads/sandwiches from carts and a cafeteria for those wishing a larger lunch choice. Seniors and juniors will be allowed to go off campus for lunch – if they meet certain criteria. Lunch period will be an all-school lunch hour, called the Power Hour, allowing for meetings with teachers if needed, study time, and socializing.

According to administration officials, the project is running under budget and ahead of schedule. Originally, the public voted for a bond of $195 million. Early figures are showing the cost of the project will be approximately $154 million. A final number will not come until September after the project has been signed off.

What was done with the rest of the bond money? Part of it was used along with matching state construction funds to build the new Lake Wilderness Elementary, which will be dedicated Aug. 31. Remaining funds have been used on other projects throughout the district, including changes at four schools that are transitioning to new uses, added security features, new roofs, heating and ventilating upgrades, removal of old portable classrooms, and purchase of new portables as needed.

As Kevin Patterson, Director of Communications for Tahoma School District, stated, “Every dollar was squeezed. We hope the community will be pleased with how their money is being used to create a modern, flexible building that will serve our students and community for many years to come.” He also stated that timing was good when the project went out to bid. As it turned out, bidding for the new high school project came during a good competitive bidding time, just before the building boom began.

The public is invited to come to the new Tahoma High School campus dedication on Tuesday, August 8, from 7-9 p.m. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony, special speakers, and self-guided tours. Then on Saturday, August 12 from 10 a.m.-1p.m. there will be an Open House for the public to enjoy once again with self-guided tours as well.

For more information on the Tahoma School District, see their website at: