CLINTON — The road to a new high school began with digging up a grass lot north of the football field this week.

Though most school news since March has centered around coronavirus and health department regulations, the Clinton School District scheduled projects and accepted bids for the new high school this year.

The cost of the high school renovations is estimated at $62 million. In March, District voters approved selling bonds to pay for about $38 million of the total. The task force estimated the property taxes would increase by 32.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The rest of the $62 million will be paid with the help of the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education tax.

The district bonded against sales tax revenue until 2029 to fund the new middle school, and Jefferson and Eagle Heights elementary schools, Superintendent Gary DeLacy explained last year. The Iowa Legislature extended SAVE, a state penny sales tax for school infrastructure that was set to expire in 2029, extending the district’s bonding capacity in the process.

With SAVE secured through 2051, the district can borrow against an additional 22 years, DeLacy said.

Thanks to the economic decline due to COVID restrictions, the District landed a 1.826% interest rate on the bonds last month.

The District accepted Midwest Concrete’s bid of $766,757 to pave the north parking lot earlier this month. Construction began this week.

Creating a new parking lot had to precede construction of new buildings because the academic wing and media center will be built in what is now the east parking lot, according to Frevert-Ramsey-Kobes Architects and Engineers.

The District will add a parking lot east of the new academic wing during construction of the high school campus and purchased three properties this summer to complete the lot.

FRK produced four plans in 2019 for renovation of the high school campus, ranging from around $46 to $71 million. Clinton School Board selected the $62 million option.

During phase one, a three-story academic wing will be constructed in what is now the east parking lot. Students will move into that wing during phase two, and the 1919 building will be demolished, according to FRK’s master plan.

The arts wing, which will include a new auditorium with balcony and a new music room, will be built during phase three.

Phase four will see a partial demo of the 1969 building — erected after the fire of 1968 — and the shops building. A new commons, art rooms and administration rooms will be built during phase five.

During phase six, the boiler house, the corridor next to Yourd gym, and the kitchen and commons will be demolished. A new kitchen, serving and receiving area will finish the project in about 2025.

The financial savings for keeping Yourd gym and renovating it compared to tearing it down and rebuilding a competition gym is $9 million, DeLacy said in 2019. “I think that was a definite thought in the task force’s thinking.”

“The other thing is that Yourd... has a great reputation,” DeLacy said, but “I think the ultimate driver is [that] option 3A is at $62 million.”

While Vernon Cook Theater will be torn down, plans call for construction of a new performing arts theater. Cook Theater lacks storage space and ease of entry, DeLacy said, and the new theater, which will be next to Yourd gym, is designed to facilitate moving sets in and out.

Parking will be added in front of the building, to the east of the new academic wing and behind the school in addition to the new lot south of the football field.

A task force conducted public meetings and tours in November, December, January and February to convince voters to pass a bond issue to finance a new high school. The tours took residents to see the deteriorating infrastructure in the basement, the massive boiler system, run-down science labs and other classrooms and the non-air-conditioned Yourd gym and band room.

The District expects phase one to begin in February 2021. Completion of the project is expected September 2025.