Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 05 December 2007 11:22
Two of the building projects approved by voters this summer for Unified School District 410 schools should be under way within the month, according to Superintendent Doug Huxman.
The USD 410 board met Monday with representatives from Howard & Helmer Architects and Coonrod and Associates Construction Co. to review bids on those projects.
If plans proceed as expected, Huxman said late last week that construction at the elementary school and high school should begin yet this month or shortly after the first of the year.
The board is still waiting for estimates on a third project, the construction of a new central office and transportation facility to be built just south of the city shop on North Ash. Construction there should begin in mid-spring, Huxman said.
If weather allows, all three of the projects should be completed this summer in time for start of the 2007-08 school year.
A fourth project that was approved by voters in the $6.25 million bond election—the development of a football and track-and-field facility in partnership with Tabor College—is still in litigation because of a lawsuit filed by district patron Raymond Brandt of rural Hillsboro.
Brandt and his attorney contend that state law does not allow a school district to own property in partnership with another entity.
Huxman declined to comment on the status of the lawsuit, except to say the district is still gathering documents to make its case before a district judge.
Huxman said the commencement of construction will require some patience and adjustment from school patrons, as well as from residents who live near the two affected school sites.
“Probably the biggest issue in both of those areas is that we’re so limited in parking,” Huxman said.
“I think the staging areas for the construction crews is going to impact parking at the high school in the student area and where we keep some of our vans,” he said.
“We don’t really know what that will be at this point, we just know there will be some inconvenience,” Huxman added. :We may have to look for alternate parking places, which may include more side streets near the school than would normally be the case.”
Residents who live near the elementary school can expect a similar situation.
“The staging area will be on the east side of the school, and we have a number of cars that park there, and our food services deliver there,” Huxman said. “We’re going to have to have alternate places for people to park—and, again, it will probably mean more side-street parking.”
Minimal classroom impact
Construction should have minimal impact on classroom instruction, Huxman said. Students and parents at the elementary school may have to alter their entrance and exit habits, though.
“Some of the construction is going to go right by the main south entrance,” Huxman said. “We don’t know yet how that will impact us. That will be resolved at some construction meetings that are coming up as soon as the bids are approved.”
Aside from parking, Huxman said the only inconvenience at the high school may be in regard to the remodeling of a science classroom.
“The major portion of that will happen when school’s out,” he said. “But we do have that greenhouse that will have to be moved earlier in the process because it sits where some of the construction is going to have to take place.”
Central office move
Huxman and the central office staff have already felt the impact of the pending project, moving into the basement of Emprise Bank as a temporary home.
He added that the central office may be the last to occupy new quarters even if the project is completed on schedule.
“The projects are all supposed to be done in mid-August, but that hits us right at budget time and the start of bus routes,” Huxman said. “It creates too much stress to (move in) while we’re doing budget and getting ready for schools to start.
“If the project follows the schedule, we’ll move in sometime in September.”
The other change occurred several weeks ago, when the staging and maintenance area for the district’s fleet of buses moved from the high school campus to the city-owned former AMPI property now occupied by Gorges Dairy.
“It kind of fell into place like it was supposed to happen that way,” Huxman said about the sequence of events that led to the moves.
Only one major change
The central office and transportation center represents the only significant change in building plans from what the district presented in the months leading up to the bond election.
As originally proposed, the district was going to renovate space on the west side of the AMPI building for those purposes. But damage caused by an April fire within the building prompted the board to change direction.
“We really haven’t had people object to that,” he said of the change. “In fact, we’ve probably had more people say it was a good move to make that change than people saying, ‘Why aren’t you there?’
“I think people totally understood why we did what we did,” he added. “By the end of (the reevaluation) we knew it was the right thing to do—it was the only thing to do.”
As construction begins, Huxman is hopeful the public will understand the need for some temporary inconveniences.
“We just ask them to be patient and look forward to the completion—which I think will make for a significant improvement to what we have,” he said.
“We have really good facilities here, but I think these are things that are just going to dress up what we already have.”