PALMER -- The new Susitna Valley Junior/Senior High School is one step closer to reality.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School Board unanimously approved a final design Wednesday for a building to replace the one lost to fire last summer.
The design goes to the borough Assembly later this month. Bidding documents are scheduled to go out this month, as well, according to Anchorage-based architects McCool, Carlson, Green.
Construction on the 50,750-square-foot school should begin late this summer and be completed in time to open in fall 2009.
Negotiations are still ongoing with the insurance company; the Legislature has budgeted and is likely to pass $19 million for a bricks-and-mortar replacement fund.
The final design eliminates an ice hockey rink the School Board added last December. Chief architect Michael Carlson told the board Wednesday the new rink fell outside budget parameters set by the state Department of Education.
The School Board amended the design to change the ice rink into a multi-purpose physical education space to include basketball and other court sports.
Carlson will pitch that idea to the Department of Education later this month.
Other changes to the design include a "student hearth" social area instead of a lobby fireplace and a climbing wall moved from the lobby to the two-court gymnasium.
Carlson said by e-mail that the building might be the first in Alaska "to adopt formal policies regarding sustainable design and construction practices." Some of those elements are heat recovery and low energy lighting.
Su Valley students, who have spent this year in portables at the Su Valley Senior Center, expressed their relief that progress was made on the new school.
"I really can't wait (for the school to open)," said Genna Moses, a sophomore, after the School Board meeting. "When it's built, it'll also be our community center, and so many more opportunities will open up for us."
Fire consumed the building June 5 in the midst of a $5.5 million roof renovation. The building itself was valued at $13.23 million. The state fire marshal within two weeks said the fire cause was undetermined.