The CTA team partnered closely with Bigfork School District and community members through successful pre-bond planning and bond promotion, design, and construction administration. The building itself was both durable and resilient with structural components and masonry that had stood for 50 years and deserved to live at least that much longer again. Of the existing 48,500 sq. ft. high school, 7,000 sq. ft. was selectively demolished. The remaining 41,500 sq. ft. was abated, remodeled, and expanded by another 36,000 sq. ft. For the first time in over 60 years of remodels and additions, every door hardware set, wall and floor finish, glazing system, and roof is of the same type, vintage, and style.
The opportunity the district had before them included maintaining a unified campus where their entire district resided on a single site with a rare adjacency to the largest natural body of fresh water west of the Mississippi River. The effort resulted in increased capacity while preserving open space that provides for outdoor learning with expansive views of Flathead Lake. Safety and security were also paramount. A number of “front doors” were simplified to one, and the relocation of the administration adjacent to an enlarged commons not only serves as the unifying heart of the building’s plan but provides for visibility and access control.
The commons creates a place to gather after events and to eat lunch, while also organizing the new library, choir and band complex, expanded gymnasium and weight training facility, and the classroom core. New programming also positioned around the commons includes the community room, student store, an a la carte area that is convertible into concessions, a new warming kitchen and serving area, and a guidance counselor suite.
Exemplifying the balance of form and function, the Bigfork High School remodel and expansion was driven by the opportunities and unique characteristics of the existing site, building, and systems. Proper planning, coordination between design and construction, scheduling, budgeting, and choreography of the trades allowed for the school to remain operational with minimal disruption to teaching and learning.