As construction on the future Williamsport Area Middle School continues, the high school got one step closer to beginning its renovations on Tuesday.

The school board voted 8-0 to award eight contracts on the high school project. Thirty-one companies submitted bids on the project.

Renovations will be done in two phases, said Vern McKissick, of McKissick Associates. The first will begin this year and the second in about 2020.

The first phase will renovate about 60,000 square feet of educational space, look at energy efficiency, upgrade HVAC systems and bring the school to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The project will renovate the gymnasium and locker rooms, create a space for the school’s orchestra and downsize from three cafeterias to two.

A “food court” style kitchen will be constructed between the two remaining cafeterias. While one cafeteria will be a quiet area for students to study during their lunch period, McKissick said the other will have the feel of a “sports restaurant” where students can socialize.

The district already has spent about $1.8 million on the project to replace a chiller system and make other upgrades.

Although McKissick said the bids mostly were “in line with what was expected,” the project did come in over the district’s budget.

In order to bring the cost of the project down, McKissick suggested modifications to the scope of the renovations.

A canopy over a new entrance to the school will be downsized, renovations to Pod E – which will be used for alternative education – will be removed, along with plans for a new Millionaire Cafe renovation. McKissick also removed a waste pulping system and window repairs from the project to save money.

McKissick suspects funds will be left over from the middle school project, which could allow the cafe and other omitted aspects to be placed back into the project.

Jeff Angstadt, project manager, said work on the now $21.3 million project should start by the end of the month. It is slated to be completed in 18 months.

About 50 percent of the cost will be eligible for reimbursement by the state Department of Education.

While work is nearly ready to start at the high school, Angstadt reported that the middle school still is on schedule to be completed by the summer.

“Overall, things have been progressing greatly this past month,” Angstadt said.

The school now is enclosed and, he said, it’s “taking shape” inside.