The Bigfork High School $14 million addition and renovation was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Construction started in May 2016 and was anticipated to be completed by January, but was finished a week before Thanksgiving with approximately $90,000 remaining in a contingency fund.
“It’s pretty remarkable to come in and be ahead of schedule and under budget — and capture what we wanted to accomplish,” Bigfork Superintendent Matt Jensen said. This achievement took an “extremely good team,” said project superintendent Mark Casalegno of Hammerquist Casalegno, who himself is a Bigfork High School graduate. In addition to Hammerquist and school district staff, the team included CTA Architects Engineers.
It has been several decades since the high school has undergone major construction. The construction and renovation project added about 36,000 square feet to the high school’s footprint. The project included eight new classrooms, four locker rooms, a community room, serving kitchen, bus barn, courtyard, gym expansion and library relocation to the first floor, among other renovations to the existing building and vocational education center. Facilities were brought up to code with fire and safety regulations and into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Bigfork High School Principal Alan Robbins said the completed project went beyond his expectations. There is a perceptible difference in the school environment since the transformation he said. The building is more conducive to modern learning and group work while serving as an inviting place where students want to be. “Kids are really using and enjoying the space,” Robbins said.
Robbins and Jensen thanked students for their patience during construction and noted the pride they have displayed through care and upkeep of the facility. On the night of Dec. 5, the high school was full of sports fans at a basketball game and community members taking student-led tours of the renovated building.
Crossing over from the new addition to the renovated existing building is virtually seamless. “Before” photos are posted around the building to help people see what changes were made. In addition to a regular door, some classrooms also have sliding glass doors. The sliding glass doors allow teachers to extend the classroom out into the hallway, or allow students to work outside the classroom while remaining visible to teachers. The furniture choices also offer flexibility in how seating is arranged.
One of the many highlights of the project are two science labs — one outfitted for physics, chemistry and anatomy, the other for biology, astronomy and forensics. The two rooms share a fume hood in their adjoining wall. Previously students had to work in an inadequately-sized lab separate from their classroom. A central feature of the building is the library, which was moved from the second floor to the first. A roll-up wall and movable shelving are just more examples where design and function meet in providing schools with flexibility in how spaces are used.
Bigfork residents Nancy and Rick Trembath were quite impressed after touring the building. “It’s so welcoming,” Nancy said. She said it was great to see the results of the community’s investment in its youth. “We’re just delighted the community went for the bond to support our young people,” she said.