By Conrad Dudderar
A ground-breaking ceremony this Friday will kick-off upcoming construction of two Yukon High School buildings totaling about $80 million funded by Yukon Public Schools’ 2021 bond issue.
A 150,000-square-foot Yukon Performing Arts Center/YHS Instructional Center and a 91,000-square-foot Yukon Millers Activity Facility will be built on the YHS campus, 1777 S Yukon Parkway.
Construction will start this fall and take about 24-30 months to complete, YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said.
Friday’s ground-breaking will precede the Yukon Millers’ football season opener against Westmoore at Miller Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
As part of pre-game festivities, new YPS teachers and their families are invited to a “tailgate” cookout. The Yukon Quarterback Club also will have a tailgate party for Miller alumni.
“Everybody’s going to be back in town,” Simeroth said. “It’s going to be a big celebration right before the (Labor Day) holiday.
“We want to welcome people in and let them see what their tax dollars are paying for coming up soon.”
YPS officials recently finalized plans for the YHS campus addition. Construction manager is Manhattan Construction and project architect is The Stacy Group, who will join Yukon school district leaders for Friday’s groundbreaking.
“It’s going to be great night with everything that’s going on because we’re celebrating ‘new starts’ – our teachers, our athletic program with the football coach, this building going up, and looking to the future for our students.”
The YPS Performing Arts Center/YHS Instructional Center will feature a 1,500-seat auditorium and space for drama, orchestra and stage craft; along with labs for programs like health careers, aerospace, media production, and computer science.
This new building will have 17 classrooms, easing congestion at the existing YHS building that opened in the early 2010s.
“These will be additional learning spaces,” Simeroth pointed out. “Our high school enrollment (grades 9-12) is now about 2,800.”
The Yukon Millers Activity Facility will feature a large practice field, locker rooms, weight rooms, offices, and other space for YPS athletes and students.
“It’s an indoor facility for everybody to come in and use,” Simeroth said of the new building, which will be just south of the Wellness Center.
The project timeline was pushed back because of a new state law that required the architect to redesign the building to include a storm shelter.
“That put us back several months because they had to redraw the whole thing and re-engineer it,” Simeroth pointed out.
A significant cost hike prompted YPS officials this summer to postpone a planned Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) satellite space.
“We absolutely want to focus on what’s best for our students here,” Simeroth explained. “With the financing that’s available – with all of the increased interest costs and construction costs – the contribution that SWOSU made to build that piece was not enough to complete what they wanted. So, we agreed that we’ll hold off until a future time when things settle down, and we can revisit that.
“We just decided, ‘Let’s build the base, let’s build it really nice and make sure all of our students are taken care of’. Then we’ll look to the future, in the future.”
Even without the dedicated SWOSU space in the new addition, YHS students are still encouraged to take concurrent courses on campus. They can even earn an associate degree before graduating high school.
YPS voters passed a $194 million bond issue package in a November 2021 election.
The initial projected budget for the YHS Addition was $70-$75 million, with building bond funds used for a performing arts center/college and career center, indoor activity facility, and YHS commons expansion.
The estimated cost now totals $80 million after the cost-saving measures YPS officials took with the future construction project.
The bidding process will begin soon as contractors from various trades are selected for the major construction project.
“They’re going to bid all the utility work, dirt work and paving first – and try to get all that done as soon as they can,” Simeroth said. “That will probably be mid-October, early-November.
“While they’re doing that, they’ll start accepting bids and looking at bids for all the rest of it.”