CONSTRUCTION New Harding High School to keep connection to past

Actual construction will begin in spring 2006, with an opening slated for fall 2008.
WARREN -- The new Warren G. Harding High School, being planned for a fall 2008 opening, keeps ties to the school's past while making a huge commitment to education's future.
"We're going to build something everybody can be proud of, and it's going to be built as efficiently as possible," said Frank E. Caputo, who is in charge of the project as the district's executive director of personnel, professional development and recruitment.
The new building's design preserves the middle section of the current high school building -- pillars, auditorium, office and library areas -- as a separate structure. It was opened in 1926.
The new 319,979-square-foot building will be built behind the old one, and will front Elm Road and Atlantic Street. The current green space will be preserved, and the new building will have the flavor of the old architecture.
"That's always been the intent, to maintain the integrity of the building as much as possible. That's the direction we've given our architects," Caputo said.
The three-floor facility's design and construction is overseen by Fanning/Howey Associates Inc., Olsavsky Jaminet Architects, Carbone Ozanne Hammond Management and the board of education. It is close to double the size of the current Harding building.
"Our desire is to keep the current grass and trees and front of the building on Elm Road. It's too beautiful to take away," Caputo said. "You'll have the same green space. You'll have the middle part [of the old building] and the existing auditorium behind it, and really the rest will disappear."
The auditorium will be refurbished depending on funding. The current library space may be used for other purposes because the new building will have a huge media center.
Linda Metzendorf, school board president, said she likes the new design because conceptually it's similar to the current building. "It's not a warehouse-type of look. It fits the architecture and the history of the town," she said.
Funding and features
The $160 million project, which also includes four new K-8 buildings, is being paid for by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission (81 percent) and local taxpayers (19 percent).
"Our taxpayers have been wonderful. They stepped up to the plate," Caputo said.
The new school's other amenities include a pool, two gymnasiums, a stage, a kitchen and serving area, wood and metal shops and other mechanical and technical areas, business education, family and consumer science, special education, vocal and instrumental music rooms and a courtyard.
The new building will have 104 classrooms. There also will be tutorial spaces, small group rooms and in-school suspension areas.
The state, Caputo noted, will not pay for a new auditorium. So, along with preserving the old auditorium, a dual-use "cafetorium" is to be built.
Work has begun
Site preparation is to begin this fall for the new building, with actual construction in spring 2006 and opening pegged for fall 2008, when the wings of the old building will come down. Until then, it will remain in use.
"The reality is, we have to house our people there, because there's nowhere else to house our kids," Caputo explained.
Already some work is under way, he explained:
UHazardous material abatement work is going on at the Elm Road properties the school district bought to make room for construction: a car lot, houses and a former union hall. They will be demolished.
UThe district is using grindings from the car driving range to create temporary parking and a base for new tennis courts that will be on part of a current football practice field.
UBaseball fields will be installed where the driving range was. Turf from Mollenkopf Stadium is being placed on the ballfields.
UThe stadium playing surface is being replaced with artificial turf. Drainage tile is being put in now with an August completion date in sight. "The stadium turf will say 'Warren G. Harding' on it," Caputo said.
He credited the baseball boosters, among other groups, with outstanding efforts in terms of dismantling the old fields and helping with the work.
"What we're doing is recycling our own material. We've saved the taxpayers over $200,000 just in materials by doing this," Caputo explained.
In conjunction with the high school building, the city schools will build four new K-8 buildings in each quadrant of Warren.
All of the school district's current buildings will be gone -- no longer used as schools, either sold for other uses or demolished.
"They are too costly to maintain," Caputo added.

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