Work on PE space, auditorium kick off $34 million Senior renovations

A new physical education space and a completely revamped auditorium are among the first components of a $34 million renovation at Dubuque Senior High School to begin taking shape.

“I’m excited to see all this work that’s been done up until this point start coming out of the ground now,” said Mark Fassbinder, Dubuque Community Schools’ new manager of buildings and grounds.

Crews began mobilizing this week at Senior to kick off the extensive three-year renovation project, the second major construction project at Senior in the past five years. The current round of work will include some additions to the school, as well as improving every part of the building not addressed in the first phase of renovations.

“This really is the culmination of all of the planning and goals of the district to bring Senior up to speed,” said Ken Johnson, project architect with Straka Johnson Architects in Dubuque.

The first stage of construction at Senior will include improvements and additions to the auditorium and the addition of a performance physical education space and wrestling room. Tricon Construction Group is serving as the contractor for the Senior renovations.

For the auditorium project, crews will construct both a new event entrance and a theater support addition and will renovate the existing auditorium with new seating, control points, catwalks and sound and video capability, among other things. Officials expect the entirety of the auditorium improvements to be completed around January 2023.

“It’ll look like a new auditorium when it’s done,” Fassbinder said.

Crews also are getting started on an addition with a performance P.E. space — which will double as a weight room — and a wrestling room, which will be constructed adjacent to Nora Gymnasium. Officials are targeting to have that finished in time for the 2022-2023 school year, Johnson said.

“There’s a lot of leap-frogging,” he said. “If we get the additions done first, then we can start moving out of the existing school into those new additions.”

Future components of the project include improvements to fine arts spaces, upgrades to classrooms and the addition of a new staircase and elevator.

Crews will significantly expand the school’s orchestra room, while the band room will receive a smaller expansion. Plans also include a suite of practice rooms for music students, storage space for visual arts courses and a new digital arts studio.

Other classrooms that were not improved in the first round of renovations will have at least updated finishes if not updated technology, Johnson said. The men’s locker room also will be renovated.

The staircase and elevator addition will provide Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility to all levels of the school. Currently, people using wheelchairs cannot access the lowest level of Senior without having to leave the building, Johnson said.

“It is a small addition but a very important addition,” he said.

Throughout the course of the project, crews also will add air-conditioning to all parts of the building that do not currently have it.

Johnson said much of the heaviest work will be completed over summers to minimize the impact of the construction project on students. The project is being completed such that 10 classrooms or fewer are offline at a time during the school year.

The entire project is expected to wrap up in fall 2024.

“Overall, it’ll be a great environment for the teachers and for students,” Fassbinder said. “That’s the purpose of this, really, is to create a learning environment that’s all-inclusive.”