Knowlton renovations coming to a close

Austin Public Schools Finance and Operations Director Mark Stotts shows off the new look in the commons area just off Knowlton Auditorium. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Austin Public Schools Finance and Operations Director Mark Stotts shows off the new look in the commons area just off Knowlton Auditorium. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Austin Public Schools is nearing completion on a project to update Knowlton Auditorium and open the space up for future events.

Updates to Austin High School’s auditorium should be finished within the next month. A big part of the renovations to Knowlton was making one wall removable for gym access.

“On the gym side, you can look into the auditorium stage,” Finance and Operations Director Mark Stotts said. “It’s pretty impressive.”

The district will now be able to hold graduation ceremonies in the auditorium, as audience members can watch from the gym.

Another big upgrade in Knowlton was to the sound and electrical system, which were out of date and forced some community organizations to bring their own sound equipment.

“We’re able to handle big performances and gatherings without having to bring in outside sound systems,” Stotts said.

For the work, the district used about $2.3 million in general obligation capital facilities bonds to upgrade Knowlton Auditorium’s sound and electrical systems, and about $5.3 million in general obligation alternative facilities bonds was used for upgrading the more than 20-year-old heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems at AHS.

“They’ve still got probably another two weeks to go after school starts,” Stotts said about the interior of the auditorium.

The projects took place this summer and were planned to take place together due to the amount of construction each project required.

New furniture and new paint was added to the open concourse area of Knowlton, and the interior of the auditorium got fresh paint and new flooring for both the audience and the stage. New lights and doors were placed at the entrances to the auditorium, though the district is still waiting to replace the doors.

Knowlton Auditorium has taken on a brighter appearance as renovations of the auditorium are nearly wrapped up.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Knowlton Auditorium has taken on a brighter appearance as renovations of the auditorium are nearly wrapped up. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Stotts said it was simply time renovate the auditorium. Rows of new speakers and lights have now been placed in the auditorium.

“That auditorium has been there many, many years and it’s been a long time since it’s had a fresh upgrade,” he said.

The biggest challenge Stotts said came from ensuring the new, removable wall followed the fire code. A new fire wall is now above the wall that opens between the gym and the auditorium, which cost more than originally thought but because of a contingency fund after coming in under budget, the district is still on budget.

“That was probably the biggest challenge on that project to this point,” he said.

The school’s heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) system is also near complete.

“The HVAC is pretty much completed, they have some work to do on balancing the system and some of the controls and such,” Stotts said. “But for the most part we have air-conditioning throughout the building and everything is pretty much set for the start of school.”

The school now has air-conditioning in the gymnasiums and the Annex building, which did not have air-conditioning before the upgrade. Because the HVAC system was a very in-depth project, the high school building was out of use during the summer. Austin High School is the last building to get it’s HVAC system updated.

Stotts doesn’t foresee any big projects in the near future, as he said all the buildings are now up to date on the HVAC systems and other areas.

“I think our buildings are in really good shape and I don’t anticipate any big projects next year,” he said.

The district has discussed the project since I.J. Holton Intermediate School’s construction was completed.

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