School board member Phil Taylor updated the board on progress at the middle/high school building in Whitingham. Recently, the administrative wing was opened for limited occupancy, allowing administrators to begin organizing offices for the beginning of the school year.
Taylor said builders are still saying classrooms will be ready for students by the first day of school, although there may be some work to be completed after regular school hours. The new gymnasium is scheduled for completion after school starts.
As classrooms are completed and turned over to school officials, the work of moving into them will begin. “The furniture from the high school building in Wilmington has been rounded up and inventoried, and we’ve assessed how much furniture we’ll need for the new building. We’ve scavenged anything of value from the school that can be reused. Nothing’s being thrown out from the old school until after we’ve been in the new school and settled in. We know we’ll be going back to pick stuff up for the first month or so.”
Taylor said the middle school wing was nearing completion. Work on the wing began last winter after the completion of some high school classrooms allowed middle schoolers to temporarily move to the high school wing.
Taylor said there would also be some refurbishment needed in some areas that haven’t been renovated under the current project. “When you walk into a new school and see some old things that haven’t been touched, they really stand out, like the bathroom stalls. They need to be refurbished or replaced.”
Taylor said he planned to do work on the bathroom stalls himself, saving $20,000 over having them installed. “Then there are areas that need to be painted and a couple other items that will stand out in a building that’s new.”
The board also approved the expenditure of $26,000 for new furniture, fixtures, and equipment for the new school.
Board members announced that the nearly $50,000 in over-budget spending for construction of the elementary school may be “absorbed” by the middle/high school construction budget. “It’s the easiest way to do it,” Taylor said.
Although Taylor said he wasn’t completely up-to-date on the latest construction budget figures, he said he didn’t foresee over spending the budget. “Things are looking tight, especially with absorbing the cost overrun from the elementary school. But we’ll be able to get most of what we needed or what we were planning to do. In another month, we’ll see where we are and see if we have any additional costs coming, and work through the line items.”
School board chair Seth Boyd said the board was managing the budget so that the school can spend up to the full amount of the financing without going over budget. “That’s part of the process when you’re getting to the end of a $14 million project. We don’t want it to come in at $13 million, but we don’t want it to come in at $15 million. We want to make sure we come in close. Even 1% over or under in a project like this is a lot of money.”
In other matters, the board also approved a bid from Sandri Fuels for wood pellets used to fuel the elementary school boiler at $219.95 per ton. Supervisory union business manager Karen Atwood said she sent out five requests for bids, and only two came back. Board members approved the lowest bid.
Only one bid was returned for the woodchips to fuel the middle/high school boiler. Noting that a local vendor didn’t return a bid, and the school employee in charge of plant maintenance didn’t recommend the sole bidder, Atwood suggested the board reject the bid and start the bidding process again.