WEST LIBERTY – Construction work is running up to the wire on the West Liberty-Salem Local Schools building project, with contractors cramming to finish items to get the school ready for the Sept. 19 start date.
The tight deadline has school officials, board and community members uneasily eyeing the calendar.
This summer has been a busy one for the building project, which tackled renovations to the “core” areas of the building, the cafetorium, gymnasiums and office areas, Superintendent Kraig Hissong said previously. Also, the current and new second entrance off U.S. Route 68 into the school site are being built.
The school board learned of the project’s progress with project officials at a special Tuesday board meeting. Representatives from Ruscilli (the construction manager) and OHM Advisors (the architect) assured the board the school should be ready to be used by the start date, and subcontractors are working extra hours to make it happen, Ruscilli Project Superintendent John Matthews said.
Matthews told the school board the work in the main core of the building, which includes the cafetorium, kitchen and gymnasiums, should be finished and ready for start of school, though there may be some minor items that are not necessary to the health and safety of students or the operations of the school that may take a bit longer. Matthews said subcontractors have been working 10-hour shifts, seven days a week to finish before school starts to get final building inspections.
The second entrance into the school, and the current entrance on U.S. Route 68, should be finished and paved right before the start of school, scheduled for Sept. 15-16, he said. Paving for all the driveways and parking lots should be complete, he added. There may be a couple of outstanding areas that will need final work, but the majority should be done.
The main entry and student entry into the school should be mostly complete, with maybe some final masonry or structural finishes left to do when students start. The entries will be usable, Matthews said.
Sept. 13 inspection vital
Neil Kirkpatrick of OHM Advisors told the board the “life and safety” inspection was scheduled for Sept. 13. That must be approved before the school can open.
“We wouldn’t schedule it if we didn’t think we would pass it,” he said. “We fully expect to pass it before the 19th.”
Though the gymnasiums should be finished, it may not be until the end of September before students can start using them, Matthews said.
Staff members said they were concerned about the cleanup of the site. Cleaning crews have been doing some cleanup, though the final cleanup has yet to be done. Matthews said with all the people coming and going into the site, areas that were clean a couple of days ago need re-cleaned. The final cleaning will be just before the start of school for areas that are to be occupied.
Community members told the board they felt the work should have been done sooner, noting little was being done in May when school got out, and now it seems work is being done at the last minute.
Kirkpatrick told the board this is normal for a building project. The last couple of weeks a lot of work has been done, and even more will be done in the next couple of weeks.
“If you paid attention to where we were at two weeks ago, a lot has happened. That same kind of work is going on now. It’s like that on every project,” he said.
Matthews added the subcontractors were hired to meet the deadline, and they are staffing to meet that deadline.
“We had been working seven days, 10 hours a day. We’ve been doing that for close to a month,” he said. “We press (the subcontractors) pretty hard to make them do that. They made this commitment to get this building done on time. Once we get that commitment, it is up to us to push them to get it done.”
When the school year starts, students will notice some changes right away, beyond the extra school entrance. Buses will drop students off at the back of the school, at a new entryway designed to improve traffic flow. Parents will drop students off in the front, where buses used to drop off students.
The last phase of the project is estimated to begin Nov. 1, Hissong said previously. That would renovate the grade 3-5 hallway. The kindergarten to grade 2 hallway will also be done and is expected to be finished by March 2017.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.