Google Maps. ( n.d.). [Alice Robertson Junior High School, Muskogee]. Retrieved Sept. 14, 2023, from
Lessons in legacy: Local engineering firm preserves historic school
The impact engineers have on their community is felt far and wide, often behind the scenes, from utilities management to construction and renovation. When a long-serving school building in the Muskogee community was ready for a major overhaul, Olsson’s engineering team was prepared to lead the project to better serve local students.
“Muskogee is a small town and generations of citizens have come through the doors of Alice Robertson Junior High School. The community was excited to see this historic building they loved come to be a treasure again,” said Dustin Vogt, mechanical/electrical team leader who served as project manager. “It's fun being involved in efforts that give back to the community, especially when people around it are so enthusiastic.”
Named after the first Oklahoma woman to serve in Congress and originally constructed under the Works Progress Administration in 1939, the building was in need of modernization, including bringing its systems up to code. The project was made possible by funding from a $110 million bond package passed for districtwide renovations in 2019, of which $18 million was dedicated to improvements at Alice Robertson.
“We combined three satellite facilities into one center of excellence, which brought challenges from a code standpoint. The campus was using several different electrical services. Per code, each building can only have one; we couldn’t connect three buildings and call it a day, and an old electrical service could not support all three,” explained Vogt, an electrical engineer by trade. “We found ways to improve the infrastructure to make it safe and be able to support future growth in fulfillment of the district’s needs.”
Most systems were replaced and upgraded throughout, including the implementation of Americans with Disabilities Act standards and a fire protection system.
“Part of our process was also considering how to support students in education spaces and facilitate collaboration,” said Vogt. “Simple changes, like changing fluorescent lights to LEDs, tighter controls on the HVAC system and fixing drainage issues so they are not a problem in the future, contribute to a better learning environment.”
Recognizing the building’s historical significance was also an important aspect of the project. A cornerstone bearing the building’s 1939 construction date was purposefully planned around and left intact. The building now serves more than 700 students, a change that eliminates the use of outbuildings and the need for area busing to accommodate student schedules.
“Overall, it was an extremely positive experience. The project was not only technically interesting but it had a great human element to it that reminded me of the importance of our work,” said Vogt. “As an Oklahoman, I love seeing our communities continuing to invest in our students and foster that development.”