Elementary school construction on target
by Mike Eldred
Feb 14, 2013 | 3116 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITINGHAM- School construction, supervisory union consolidation, and school security topped the agenda at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Wilmington and Whitingham school boards.

Board member Phil Taylor said construction at the future Twin Valley Elementary School was on budget and on schedule. Steel framing of the additions is nearly finished, and Taylor said some of the steel decking has been installed. “After that they’ll start closing it up and get the slab poured.”

Taylor said the school was still on schedule to be turned over to the construction company to begin interior work on June 24. “We’ve talked about moving that forward to get them in a week earlier, depending on snow days,” Taylor said.

The scheduled completion date for the school is September 11, Taylor said, and an extra week at the beginning of the summer could help keep the project from extending beyond that date.

Deerfield Valley Principal Rebecca Fillion said teachers at the school were already chomping at the bit to start packing up to vacate the building. “The staff is looking for boxes,” she said. “They could, hypothetically, start moving stuff out sooner rather than later.”

Fillion said the board may want to consider organizing storage for excess items, as well as additional dumpsters, soon. “Some of them have been in their classrooms for decades.”

Taylor told board members that the construction contingency fund hasn’t been dipped into yet, but he said that one major purchase, that of a wood pellet boiler, was postponed until the end of construction. If the contingency fund hasn’t been decimated at the end of the project, the boiler will be purchased with the remaining funds. If the contingency has been drawn down, the school can function with existing boilers until funding for the wood pellet boiler can be secured. “All the mechanicals for the wood pellet boiler will be installed, we’re just not purchasing it yet. If other costs creep up, we’ll still have our safety cushion.”

If the cost of the wood pellet boiler were added in at this point in the construction, the budget would be over by about $118,000, Taylor said, however that figure doesn’t include the contingency fund.

A small portion of the contingency fund may be used for asbestos abatement. Taylor said the board had planned for about $10,000 in asbestos abatement costs. But, while most of the asbestos in the school was removed years ago, Taylor said some asbestos insulation had been found on elbows in perimeter piping. While the asbestos is sealed off from the interior of the building and doesn’t have to be removed under state and federal standards, board members agreed that getting it out of the building was the best plan. “I think we’re looking at closer to $30,000 than $10,000, Taylor said.

“There’s no danger in the asbestos right now?” asked board member Dennis Richter.

“No, we just want it gone,” Taylor said.

“Kids have no contact with it,” agreed Fillion. “It’s sealed, and undisturbed.”

Budgeting for the middle/high school project slated to begin later this year hasn’t been going as well, however. “Right now we’re about $600,000 to $800,000 over, and that’s with some cuts.” Taylor said there was a contingency allowance in the budget, but the board still intended to start construction on budget.

“We’ve cut down the size of the gym,” he said. “It’s still a full-size tournament court with full seating, but the practice courts won’t be full-size, and the height of the ceiling has been reduced.” Other cuts included elimination of stone facing in favor of stuccoed insulation, and reducing the number of windows. Taylor said the building committee would continue to work to reduce the budget.

Superintendant Nancy Talbot updated the board on the latest developments in Windham Southwest Supervisory Union’s joint study with Windham Central Supervisory Union on shared services. The joint committee hired education consultant Dr. Ray Proulx to conduct their study, but Talbot said Proulx was recovering from a recent hospitalization. Although Proulx is expected to return to work, Talbot said it was unknown how long the process might be stalled, or whether he’ll continue with the study.

Board member John Doty said he attended the most recent meeting of the study committee, and was dismayed to find that he was the only person there from WSSU. “I think there’s a feeling on the part of Windham Central that this is a WSSU problem,” he said. “I think there are some encouraging possibilities for us. If we take a look at what they have, and what we have, and what’s missing, we can make it better. Two SUs working together can solve these problems.”

In a separate process, the two supervisory unions have also joined in a state-sanctioned study to examine whether it would be beneficial to merge the two districts, or portions of the districts.

In other matters, following heightened security concerns stemming from a general and vague threat earlier this month Twin Valley High School Principal Bob Morse asked the board to approve the repair or replacement of the exterior door at the front entryway at the school. The door, he said, is warped and doesn’t shut properly. A replacement could cost several thousand dollars, board members said.

“We’ve got to get it fixed,” Morse said. “We’re going to have to spend some money, but if I can’t have a secure school, something’s going to have to get done.”

Board members agreed, and Taylor said he’d inspect the door to see if a less expensive option was available. “If the inside door is lockable, it wouldn’t take much for me to move the (intercom and buzzer) electronics inside,” offered board member Doug Swanson.

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