11/23/09 — School construction still on track in county

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School construction still on track in county

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 23, 2009 1:46 PM

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Julio Valdez, an electrician with Nationwide Electric, works inside a new four-classroom building on the campus of Greenwood Middle School. Construction is expected to be finished in time for the spring semester.

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Workers finish up brick at Greenwood Middle School.

After months of negotiating, prioritizing and debating funding sources for Phase I of the school facilities projects in the Wayne County School District, three of the projects are near completion, school personnel say.

Work at Brogden Primary, Greenwood Middle and Mount Olive Middle schools is on target for completion soon, said Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services.

Looming once the $5.4 million projects are completed are Eastern Wayne and Norwayne middle schools, Hill said.

"We're still waiting anxiously, hopefully, for our economy to turn around," he said. "We probably will have to go back and revisit each of those projects because of the time elapsed, but that's already been approved."

For the initial projects, the district hoped to access lottery dollars. Later, the Local Government Commission was added as an option, allowing the county commission to borrow money.

"We were going to take the money we got from the lottery and dip into the half-cent sales tax," Hill said.

"When the economy dipped, we got worried about the half-cent sales tax."

Not only was the Local Government Commission not an option by that point, but lottery funds also came into question.

"When we did move forward, they froze the lottery and then unfroze it," he said.

The move allowed the district to proceed, albeit cautiously.

"It very well could happen again," Hill said.

The three projects began in the spring and have been, for the most part, on schedule.

A steel shipment problem caused a slight delay at Brogden and Greenwood.

"It put us behind schedule according to the project schedule," Hill told the school board during a facilities plan update at its Nov. 2 board meeting. "We had to increase manpower to make up the time that has been lost. We will be able to make the completion dates."

Prentice Uzzell, project manager, said the delays have been overcome and the projects are moving along swiftly.

Mount Olive Middle School is complete pending tiling one small bathroom. The entire project included renovations to the cafeteria, upgrades to restrooms, air conditioning the kitchen and gym and a redesign to the front parking area, including removal of trees.

The parking lot modifications alone "helped that entire campus," Uzzell said. "We made it a visitor and staff parking lot, and the buses drop off students at (the former) Carver High School. So it's a much, much better situation there than we had before."

At Greenwood, a new four-classroom building is nearing completion. The structure will house art, Spanish, music and band classes, as well as a teacher workroom and two new restrooms. A parking lot will also be added.

"The goal was to have it open for the spring semester, January," Uzzell said. "We don't see any problems now. They're inside doing finishing now and will pave (this) week."

An existing metal "connector" building will also be taken down, opening up the campus, he said, and two modular units will be removed.

"We have got the bids on the demolition," Uzzell said.

The Brogden Primary project is expected to be finished later this spring.

In addition to a standalone cafetorium -- cafeteria/gymnasium combo, featuring a stage area and separated by a folding petition -- plans call for moving the parent drop-off area to the rear of the building to ease traffic congestion.

The long-anticipated cafetorium is not new to Wayne County. Similar setups exist at Tommy's Road, Spring Creek and Rosewood elementary schools, Hill said.

But for Brogden Primary, one of the older structures in the district, the new kitchen and cafeteria will be a welcome addition of space.

As of now, Uzzell said, "Structural steel is up and 95 percent of the masonry is complete. We had some delivery issues with the steel, but that's been resolved, and we're moving forward. I still believe the April dates can be met."

The building will probably not be in use, however, until the next school year, he added.

"That's why those dates were established, to make sure we would have it for the next school year," he Uzzell said.

Officials are keeping an eye on the current economy, hopeful that the anticipated Local Government Commission-funded projects at Norwayne and Eastern Wayne middle schools will come to fruition.

The facility plans call for a two-story, 24-classroom building at Norwayne, along with the renovation of a sixth-grade classroom building, site drainage improvements, upgrades to the cafeteria and air conditioning the gym and kitchen. Originally, target date for bids was April 2009, with completion slated for April 2011.

At Eastern Wayne, the plan includes a proposed two-story 20-classroom addition, plus administration suite, renovation of the existing administration building, site drainage improvements, air conditioning the gym and kitchen and improving parent drop-off area and front parking lot. Original target dates had been for bids to be out in April 2009 and completion by March 2011.

"All were really good projects," Uzzell said. "It's just unfortunate the economy is like it is now."