Thursday, August 6, 2020

School construction schedules remain unchanged

Bid packets for construction projects at Lawrence-Lawson and Maplewood schools go out tomorrow (Tuesday) and are due back by April 24, with construction to begin June 7.

Sparta Superintendent Dr. Amy Van Deuren told the school board at a special meeting last week that the construction timelines are very tight, and that general contractor Market & Johnson said the district might realize savings from lower bids if it committed to starting construction earlier.

Workers will be converting Maplewood to a Pre-K center and Lawrence Lawson to a Montessori school.

Van Deuren said if the project began sooner and classes went back into session before the end of the school year, teachers would have to relocate their classrooms to the district’s Administrative & Educational Center to finish school. 

“It’s a lot of moving around and a lot of work for that couple of extra weeks of time,” she said.

However, she added, that if the school district learned for certain within the next few weeks if the school closure would extend through the rest of the school year, it would make sense to move the timeline up.

School board member Ed Lukasek said he doubted school would return to session this school year and suggested that if it did, let those students continue with remote learning if it meant a savings to the school district.

While conceding that could be an option, Van Deuren said there really is no guarantee there would be a savings and if there was, would outweigh the benefit to the students.

“If we have the luxury of being able to gather in our schools for any time before the end of the year, that would be a gift I think we need to give our students,” she said.

Board member Mary Treu agreed. “Face to face with these kids the last two weeks of school would be monumental for them because this has been tremendously hard on them as well as the teachers,” she said.

“If we can give any sense of normalcy to anyone out there, I think we have to do that,” added Board member Josh Lydon.

The board agreed that it would only up the timeline of the projects if school was officially closed for the remainder of the year.

Van Deuren also gave an update on construction progress at the new Herrman Elementary School.

She said the only glitch so far is there are a few items sourced in the U.S. that are on backorder because the  companies that manufacture them are shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Those include baskets for the gym, which have to installed before the gym floor can go down, fire doors, also for the gym, and marker boards and cork boards for classrooms. Van Deuren said those loose ends can be tied up after the district takes occupancy of the building.

The good news, she said, is that Market & Johnson, barring any mandated work stoppage, will continue with construction and is still holding to a July 1 completion date.

“They’re doing everything they can to keep this thing on schedule,” said Van Deuren.

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