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Ready to play: Royal High School celebrates new gym

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | January 19, 2022 1:00 AM

ROYAL CITY — Royal School District officials will mark the halfway point of construction at Royal High School and Royal Middle School with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 7 p.m. Saturday in the rebuilt RHS gym.

Rebuilding the gym was part of the first phase of the construction, with the second phase tentatively scheduled for completion this summer. District voters approved a $16.58 million construction bond in 2019 to pay for the project, which included security upgrades at RHS and RMS, as well as additional classrooms and the gym.

The total project cost is $19.84 million. The district also qualified for funding from the state.

District superintendent Roger Trail said the motivation for the project was improving security and eliminating multiple entrances at both buildings. Previously, the RHS gym was a separate building. Now, a hallway connects the brand-new office to the gym. A counseling center and one classroom were added during the first phase.

The gym was inaugurated with a game against Warden on Dec. 11.

“It was so fun to play our first game in there,” Trail said. “We hosted our wrestling tournament Dec. 28, too. We were able to get in and start using it in December, even though it wasn’t 100% (completed).”

Trail said using the unfinished gym was possible due to the cooperation between district officials and the contractors, Spokane-based Leone & Keeble.

The gym project also included new locker rooms and a new weight room. Air conditioning was added and the sprinkler system upgraded.

The basketball court itself was reconfigured and the gym was enlarged, going from fewer than 1,000 seats to about 1,300 seats, Trail said. Bleachers now surround the court on all sides.

The new, much larger gym foyer includes a concession stand with a kitchen. The class of 2021 chose the mural outside the gym – a depiction of the school mascot. It’s printed on vinyl, and had to be reprinted because it was a little too small, Trail said. The new mural should be installed by Saturday, he said.

The new high school office is bigger than the old office and is the only entry during the school day.

The new office opens into what will be the new commons area when the second phase of the project is completed. Previously, the cafeteria was in a separate building.

Part of the old commons is still there, with a temporary wall closing off the area still under construction. The foundation is in place for the extended commons, which will connect with a wing of high school classrooms. Construction crews were framing the walls of the extended commons area on Thursday.

Two classrooms will be added at RHS as part of the second phase. One classroom was demolished, but was replaced with the classroom added as part of the gym remodel.

Two new classrooms have been completed at RMS, and some of its bathrooms have been upgraded. It also has a fire-suppression system throughout the whole building, something it didn’t have before. The second phase of construction at the middle school will focus on the office and reconfiguring the entry to make it more secure. People will have to ring the office to gain entry, similar to the systems already in place at Red Rock Elementary School and Royal Intermediate School.

The interior of the office was demolished in the first phase at RMS. Currently, a classroom is serving as the office and administrative space.

The second phase at RMS is supposed to be completed this summer, but like a lot of current construction projects, it’s been affected by shortages of materials and construction crews. Trail said he’s still optimistic the project will finish on time.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Courtney McCoy, left, the Royal High School principal, talks with lead secretary Vanessa Rodriguez, right, in the new RHS office on Thursday.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Construction workers walk a framing wall into place during the second phase of construction at Royal High School on Thursday.