PUBLISHED: 8:06 PM on Wednesday, November 7, 2007
New school opens in Haines as renovation continue
HAINES-Adding a new school and renovating the old-Haines students have something to be excited about.

A new K-8 school was added this year and full renovations for the high school are currently in process.

The Haines Borough School District applied for funding through the state for a capital improvement project. Seventy percent of total project was awarded by the state, over 14 million dollars encompassing both school projects.

The City & Borough of Haines contributed the remaining 30 percent, and own the property schools reside on.

"The Bureau has made substantial contributions, and worked with the construction company to optimize how the money was utilized and were able to do things we were afraid we weren't going to do," said Haines Borough School District superintendent Michael Byer.

Decisions were based upon the current elementary school state of deterioration, and particularly one area that had been there for many years and wasn't compliant to ADA requirements, he said.

Courtesy photo
  The new foyer area of the kindergarten-eighth-grade school for the Haines Borough School District, which was completed in August; improvements to the existing high school will continue through the fall semester.
Remodeling requirements including putting in elevators were costly; it was an economical decision to start from scratch.

hey are remodeling the high school, so it's up to code and it will fit more with the elementary school," he said.

The Haines Borough School district operates three facilities: Mosquito Lake Elementary School, Haines Elementary/Middle School, Haines High School, as well as a correspondence program.

Starting approximately a year ago, planning began with construction for the new school and high school remodel. The elementary school was finished late August 2007.

Size wise, the K-8 school is the same but new additions include a cafeteria area and commons, which is utilized by both schools. Students are also privy to a new elementary gym.

"It was built and attached to the west side of the high school built here in the 70s. If you walk into the new school there is a beautiful commons area with a mounted glacier bear in the display case looking at you and (there is) lots of light," he said concerning the K-8 school.

The classroom windows were designed to utilize light both economically and aesthetically, and much more energy efficient than previous lighting system. The early primary classrooms are set in a hub of close proximity with the upper elementary and middle school classroom are set in one area of building.

Courtesy photo
  Construction of a new school for the Haines Borough School District was completed in August, and improvements to the existing high school will continue through the fall semester. Pictured is the main entrance to the K-8 and high school. The high windows are over the foyer, the areas to the left and behind the canopy are the administrative offices, and the wing back and behind are elementary classrooms.
"They love it-the newness of it. We had an open house just prior to opening for school this fall. I think what people are struck with is the amount of light and the open feel when you walk in," he said.

As far as the old K-8 school goes; it's being utilized as the high school until the end of the first semester.

"When we resume school on the third of January, we hope to be in the refurbished high school," Byer said.

"(We) took the old high school, basically gutted it and rebuilt it from the inside; it will have a look that's similar to the new K-8 school, and will house a new library and art room."

Construction began in June 2007 and as soon as school was over, construction workers were up and running, re-routing heating ducts and rewiring.

A path between schools links the high school, which is located to the west of the elementary school.

Byer, who recently started in July, said he enjoys the benefits of all the effort and it's an honor to work in Haines. He was previously principal in Huna as well as Kiana in the Northwest Arctic Bureau School District.

"It's going to be a real asset to the community. It's another result of a community working together to accomplish (goal)."

All schools within the District have Internet and e-mail access. Over the last year, the District has added over 80 new laptops for student use and is currently working on establishing video teleconferencing links with several other small school districts, their Web site states.

A new program at the school includes Safe School Ambassadors, which was implemented to help students with bullying programs.

Students were recommended for program and then asked to participate.

Students assist in mediating, as sometimes students know what can be happening versus adults to help with a problem or at least alert someone or a teacher about a potential problem, Byer said.

"Haines is a pretty high achieving school as is," he said.

"We're very proud of our students involved in the program and our school in general."