Historically, when teams from Freeman High School advance to the state tournament, the hallways are festooned with well-wishing banners and streamers, most decked out in the school colors of powder blue and white.
Things were a little different during the 2009-10 school year.
While the Scotties did enjoy their share of success in athletics – boys golf placed second at state while the girls basketball team brought home the school’s first 1A Washington state championship – the approach to decorating on campus took a turn as a major renovation project meant portable classrooms instead of permanent hallways.
“We would hang stuff on portables, but the wind swept it away in a day,” said Freeman Principal Dave Smith.
The adjustment was one of many made by students and staff throughout the year. Earlier this month, Freeman seniors gathered for their graduation ceremony in the Spokane Valley Nazarene Church on Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley. In years past, the event has been held in the Scotties’ home gym.
“The seniors missed out on the social aspect of not having a building,” Smith said.
Home basketball games and practices were moved to the HUB Sport Center in Liberty Lake. Attendance was down from the previous year, but fans still turned out (around 200 a game) to support a pair of teams that both qualified for state.
Smith said students and staff adjusted “better than we could have asked them to” throughout a year marked by ongoing construction and temporary classrooms.
“Everyone kind of chipped in,” he said.
As the 2010-11 school year dawns, the upgraded campus will feature a state-of-the-art gym with skylights and seating for 1,200, compared to the old capacity of around 700. A parkling new weight room is already being utilized. The previous varsity gym will now feature a refurbished look with skylights and a new floor while a space once used as a secondary gym will now be utilized for shop classes.
Groundbreaking for the reconstruction project took place last May, roughly one year after voters passed a $19.5 million capital facilities bond to rebuild the high school and elementary school. State matching funds added another $10.5 million to the budget.
As part of a thorough informational campaign prior to the vote, the Freeman School District got the word out about deteriorating infrastructure at the high school – built in 1957 – including aging heating and air conditioning systems, inadequate lighting and outdated technology.
“It was a great effort on the part of the entire community,” said Freeman Superintendent Sergio Hernandez.
The upgrade will mean a two-story structure with an additional 28,000 square feet of space as compared to the original building. When finished, the campus will cover 82,000 square feet.
The project ran into a snag last spring when it was determined that a foundation for part of the building to the south could not be built due to unsuitable soil. Hernandez said the delay of 72 days – which included builders hauling in a supply of stable rock, gravel and soil – was mitigated by a shift in the construction schedule that meant workers concentrating on other parts of the task.
Spacious windows and elevated ceilings are two trademarks of the new school, Hernandez said. Band and choir rooms will include the latest in sound systems while a multipurpose room toward the front of the school will feature towering windows to emphasize the sunlight.
An open house is scheduled for Sept. 1, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., while a ribbon-cutting will take place later in the fall, with a date to be determined.
“I’m looking forward to the sense of being a school again,” said Smith. “Just something as simple as having an assembly in our own gym.”