Construction will demolish old buildings, finish parking lots and landscaping to end project in August

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FARMINGTON — Farmington High School students will move into the school's new building when they return from winter break on Jan. 8. Staff will prepare their new classrooms before students return, according to FHS Principal Tim Kienitz.

The construction project, which is three years in the making, was completed in phases, Kienitz said. The project's cost was approximately $75 million, according to Ted Lasiewicz, chief of operations for Farmington Municipal School District.

A three-story building of English and math classrooms, known as the A wing, was completed and opened to staff and students in August of 2016, Kienitz said. The bulk of the second phase, which includes the B, C, and D wings, was wrapping up on Dec. 8 when Farmington Municipal School District administrators and community members took a tour of the building as construction workers prepared to install furniture.

The newly constructed B, C and D wings include the main entrance and school administrative offices, classrooms and labs, and — a new feature to the school — a central commons that includes the cafeteria and an open auditorium, as well as a second-floor library that overlooks the commons and an outdoor courtyard that the commons opens up to.

“Farmington High School in its history, that I’m aware of, has never had a true commons, so this gives a central meeting place that’s indoors for our students to gather,” Kienitz said. “To me, this commons is going to be the hub of what we’re doing here.”

The commons opens up into a courtyard where the three wings of the new school building create a U shape, which gives the school some significant safety and security advantages, Kienitz said.

“We had 56 entrances and exits out of the school previous, because it was all different buildings. Now we’re down to like 13, so it’s really dramatically reducing the number of places intruders can get in so that right now is hot topic with what happened in Aztec,” Kienitz said, referring the Dec. 7 shooting at Aztec High School in which two students and the shooter died.

The new buildings are also connected, meaning a student can go from one end of the building to the opposite end without going outside if need be, according to David Hawthorne, project manager with general contractor Jaynes Corp.

“Before only two wings were actually connected, so you had to go outside to go from one to the other, but now you can go from one end of the building to the other without stepping foot outdoors,” Hawthorne said.

There are also some benefits to the community in the new school buildings. Kienitz said a new bus loop will drop off students directly in front of the cafeteria, instead of on Sunset Avenue.

“That’s going to relieve a lot of the traffic congestion issues that we have across Sunset (Avenue) and 20th Street,” Kienitz said.

The new buildings also offer some state-of-the-art labs that will be used in the school’s career preparation programs, like the certified nursing assistant, health and pre-engineering programs, Kienitz said.

“This is where the money is being really well spent, is in the labs,” said FMSD Superintendent Eugene Schmidt during the Dec. 8 tour of one of the labs.

The final phases of the project involve demolition of old buildings and installing parking lots, as well as tying up some “odds and ends with re-purposing our old cafeteria into a weight room-slash-dance floor and a back portion of a drama theater,” Kienitz said.

The project has been a long-term one for Hawthorne, who began his career with Jaynes Corp. in the 1970s constructing some of the school buildings that will be demolished this spring.

“(Phase B) was about 16 months, the BCD wing,” Hawthorne said. “The project started when we knocked down the first building in spring break of 2015. We’ll roll out of here after we’ve planted the last tree in August of 2018.”

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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