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Middle school construction delayed, still successful

The completion date of Powell Middle School’s new wing has been delayed, but will still be open in time for the 2012-13 school year.

Phase one of the two-phase project  — built by Groathouse Construction — initially was scheduled to be finished June 14. The delay, due to an excess of moisture in the concrete foundation of the new construction, has pushed the completion date to July 9.

Originally, sheet vinyl was going to be laid around each kitchen station in the brand new family and consumer sciences room, but if the moisture cannot be removed in time, alternative flooring will have to be installed.

“Any solution that we do that’s other than what’s in the drawings will cost us money,” Todd Wilder, Park County School District No. 1 coordinator of support services, said.

Wilder said he hopes it doesn’t have to come to that. He is currently working with CTA Architects Engineers to find a solution that wouldn’t require deviating from the original plans.

“We’re waiting on the architects to decide what we’re going to do,” PMS principal Jason Sleep said.

If the moisture issue cannot be resolved, the school district will need to request additional funds — approximately $50,000 — to change the flooring and complete the project in time for the school year, Wilder said.

“We have a little bit of time, it just makes everybody nervous,” he said.

Teachers report to school Aug. 14, and instruction begins Aug. 23. Wilder said district officials want everything done by Aug. 1 at the latest so school employees have time to move furniture and equipment to the new building.

“If we have the time, we’ll exchange the time for the increased cost,” Wilder said. “If we start running out of time, then we’ll have to ask the state for the extra money to change floor type.”

This isn’t the first time Wilder has dealt with this issue. He said both Southside Elementary and Westside Elementary had problems with moisture in the foundation during construction.

“(The state) was pretty concerned about it, so they brought in a nationally known concrete expert,” Wilder said. “He did a big analysis of the contractor’s procedures and made recommendations for the middle school. The architect and the contractor followed his recommendations to the letter, and we still have high moisture.”

He said it’s a common problem that no one is quite sure how to fix.

“It’s an issue we’ll work through,” Wilder said. “We’ll have a successful conclusion before we’re done.”

The almost-finished wing centers around a large multi-purpose room that will serve as a cafeteria, performance hall and presentation room, among other uses.

The room has a relaxed, coffee-house aesthetic that Sleep said was something students asked for.

“Kids felt like this was a prison,” he said. “They wanted a place to call their own.”

The walls and floors are painted with blues, oranges and greens. Black modern lamps hang from the ceiling over what will soon be an Internet café that lines the west wall.

The entire length of the south wall is a floor-to-ceiling window that allows natural light to fill the room on sunny days.

At night, or during gloomier days, the room will be lit by the fluorescent lights that stem outward from a center point like spokes on a bicycle wheel.

Wilder said the wall-sized window will be lined with coffee house furniture such as couches and arm chairs.

The room can be divided into quarters by curtains to give it added flexibility.

“We can separate our spaces, so if we want to do presentations with kids and parents, we have a lot of flexibility to use this as an educational space,” Sleep said.

The new space’s most significant purpose will be providing a place on the middle school campus in which students can eat lunch. Students have been eating lunch at the old high school building across the street. In order to safely allow students to walk to and from lunch, a block of Third Street has to be blocked off, interrupting traffic on a major thoroughfare, Wilder said.

“All the kids will be able to be housed in this middle school campus now,” said Wilder. “It’s a big safety factor.”

The new building also has a room that Sleep refers to as the “technology garage,” which will serve as a high-tech classroom and laptop computer lab. Students’ desks will be on hydraulics, allowing them to move up and down to suit each student’s needs. The desks will also be on wheels so they may be cleared out of the garage easily to make room for the robotics class.

“We’re excited about this room. It’s an interesting space to see where the future can be,” Sleep said.

As for exterior additions, a bus loop is being constructed on the north end of the school’s campus. This will alleviate the early morning traffic jam caused by the arrival of students, Sleep said, thereby separating the buses from parents, who drop off their kids at the school’s south end.

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