Students will move into a remodeled Stewart Middle School in Tacoma six months early, on March 13.
The early opening will end their cross-town commute. Stewart kids, who live in neighborhoods in the east and south parts of the city, have been temporarily housed at the former Hunt Middle School campus, near Tacoma Community College, since September 2015.
Stewart, which opened in 1924 at 5010 Pacific Ave., has city and state historical designations.
The newly modernized building is ready to occupy. But completion of the track and field will continue over the next few months. The school will have a grand opening celebration in the spring.
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“We’re excited to bring our Stewart family home and reconnect with our community,” Stewart Principal Zeek Edmond said in a news release. “While our staff and students have been amazing during our transition time at ‘Camp Hunt,’ we all will love getting home again. Believe me, I’ve had a sneak peek.”
Tacoma Public Schools officials noted that severe weather and competition for construction labor and supplies have caused delays for construction projects around the region — including the delayed opening of Wainwright Intermediate School in Fircrest. But they said other factors worked in their favor at Stewart.
When the district was evaluating schools to include in the ballot issue, Stewart — essentially the same building as originally built in 1924 — was a poster child for a school so deteriorated that it interfered with student learning.
Rob Sawatzky, planning and construction director, Tacoma Public Schools
“Historic remodels are challenging and rewarding projects, but (contractor) Skanska was able to work efficiently to bring the project in early,” Rob Sawatzky, the school district’s planning and construction director, said in the release.
He said that modernizing an existing building meant the project wasn’t as affected by the recent steel shortage or weather impacts on moisture-sensitive soils.
Sawatzky pointed out that the Stewart project used a model that brings the contracting firm into the process early, so the contractor can work alongside the architect. This process is different from the standard one that has an architect complete a design before the contractor comes on board. School districts can use the approach on projects that require early involvement by the general contractor to be successful, such as with historic remodels.
Stewart is one of 14 schools being remodeled or replaced with funds from a $500 million bond that voters approved in 2013.
The historic modernization includes preservation of historic features, demolition of a 1970s addition to make room for a gymnasium and student courtyard, window replacements, seismic upgrades, conversion of the large central auditorium into multiuse spaces, and construction of two flexible spaces that teachers can adapt for various needs. The Stewart community garden also will return.
“We have to thank Tacoma voters for their support of schools like Stewart,” said Sawatzky. “Back in 2012 when the district was evaluating schools to include in the ballot issue, Stewart — essentially the same building as originally built in 1924 — was a poster child for a school so deteriorated that it interfered with student learning.”
District officials hope that the newly remodeled Stewart will help students achieve.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635
By the numbers
Stewart Middle School
Square feet: 125,000.
Student capacity: 750.
Budget projection: $66 million.
Architect: Bassetti Architects.
Contractor: Skanska USA.
Source: Tacoma Public Schools.