BY PAUL DOWNER
Delano Public Schools
DELANO, MN Through the waning weeks of summer the question asked most often around the Delano schools was if the secondary building would be ready in time for classes to start.
The plan was to have the facility up and running by Sept. 5, and according to Chris Rear of project oversight firm ICS, it was.
“We accomplished what we needed to,” said Rear, adding that while some teachers were limited in the amount of time they had to set up after the completion of construction in their rooms, and while the custodial staff put in time over Labor Day weekend to help, all of the spaces were fully functional when students walked through the doors.
Substantial work continued in the science rooms during the final week of summer break, but all casework, plumbing, gas connections, projectors and other furniture were in place by Sept. 5.
In addition, a few outstanding items that had been expected to linger past the school starting date were also completed before students arrived. Windows for the digital commons space, for example, were installed Sept. 1, and acoustic wall panels for the music rooms also arrived early.
“I’m very pleased, overall, with the transition into the school year in terms of our construction projects,” said Superintendent Matt Schoen. “It amazes me how quickly our students figure things out regarding the logistics of space in our schools. We are happy to have our students and staff back for yet another successful school year.”
Not all went according to plan, however. A shipment of marker boards that had been scheduled to arrive on time went astray in transit, leaving some classrooms short during the first week of school.
“That was the last big item we had scheduled for substantial completion before the opening, but it didn’t happen,” said Rear, adding that the glitch was outside of the contractor’s control. “Some rooms had existing marker boards that were re-used, but almost every room where work occurred had at least one new marker board going in. It’s inconvenient, but it didn’t stop class.”
School staff experienced a variety of connectivity issues during the first week as well, but “you’re going to have that when you do a project like this,” said Rear.
While the high school cafeteria and commons space won’t be complete until October, Rear said there has been adequate space available for seating. Tables are temporarily set up in the digital commons, but students have not had to use the serving area for seating as contingency plans had envisioned.
Once the lower commons is completed along with the main entrance in October, the tables will be moved out of the digital commons, and the proper furniture will be moved into that space. The floor in the lower commons will remain bare concrete for the rest of the school year because of the time it takes to install terrazzo or a different type of flooring, but Rear said that delay has been part of the plan from the beginning.
“It will take a couple of months to do, and we didn’t have a couple of months to spare this summer,” he said.
As for final touches in the classrooms, work has continued before or after classes, or even in some cases during prep hour when students are not present. The installation of paper towel dispensers and ceiling panels are examples of the type of ongoing work.
“The contractors have a good size window in the morning and a good size window after school to keep knocking things off that punch list,” Rear said.
While construction will continue through the school year and into the summer of 2018 at various points within the facility, Rear said the pace has relaxed to some degree now that the school routine has been established.
“In an occupied space, it takes a little bit longer than in an unoccupied space to take care of certain things,” he said. “But you just have to work around it.”
One other delay of note is that the refinishing of the existing tennis courts won’t be completed until spring of 2018. Steady rain in the second half of the summer put contractors behind schedule, and while all five north-side courts are now covered in the new blue playing surface, the five courts on the south side will be refinished in spring of 2018.