December 11, 2017

An education in logistics

FRONT---WCS-Renovation

Observer photo by Jason Starr
Construction rews work on floors Tuesday at Williston Central School.

School community strives for normalcy amid WCS construction

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

The 2017-2018 school year will be an extraordinary one at Williston Central School.

From entire classrooms relocating in the middle of the year to architects and construction superintendents roaming halls, the school community is challenged to retain the integrity of its learning environment in the middle of a $20 million building renovation.

The multi-faceted project — which covers the building’s ventilation, electrical, plumbing and security systems, as well as windows, floors and roofs, among other things — started in June. Already, the renovation of 21 classrooms is nearly complete.

Construction will continue apace throughout the school year, with the work confined to specific areas of the school on a rotating basis. Up first for renovations in September are the Kaleidoscope and Harbor houses. Every 10 weeks, construction crews will advance to a new area, displacing eight classrooms at a time to pre-set “swing spaces.”

For some teachers, that means moving back into their classrooms for the start of the school year, then moving into a swing space, then moving back into their renovated classrooms. Every classroom was completely packed up and cleared for asbestos mitigation in June.

“It will be all hands on deck,” Williston School District Principal Greg Marino said. “That’s what this project is about, everyone chipping in and lending a hand … There is no question it will have an impact on teachers.”

Third- and fourth-grade teacher Marybeth Morrissey said teachers handled the spring pack-up in stride. She expects to begin reconstituting her classroom — albeit in a new space that hasn’t been used as a classroom for years — next week. Teachers are due to officially report Aug. 23. Some of the typical preseason professional development time will be devoted to moving in, Marino said.

Observer photo by Jason Starr  Williston School District Principal Greg Marino checks out new windows Tuesday at Williston Central School.

Observer photo by Jason Starr
Williston School District Principal Greg Marino checks out new windows Tuesday at Williston Central School.

“With the logistics of the project, I’m so impressed how we are keeping teams together and keeping educational integrity with the least amount of impact on learning,” Morrissey said.

The project could serve as an educational enhancement, she said, with teachers considering ways to incorporate construction into the curriculum.

“It is going to be such a unique year, and kids have the opportunity to peak behind the curtain and maybe meet with engineers and use it as a learning opportunity,” Morrissey said.

The rotating construction zones will be secured so workers only have access to the part of the building they are working on, and students are prevented from entering construction zones.

Workers will use a separate parking lot and building entrance on the northeast side of the building. Only about 12 construction superintendents and architects will have access to the rest of the building and be available as an educational resource. They have been background-checked and fingerprinted, Marino said.

The project did hit a glitch this summer when classroom flooring was replaced. According to Marino, the flooring contractor required that the school district mitigate moisture found in the building’s foundation before it would warranty the flooring work. As a result, the foundation was ground up, leveled and sealed — an unexpected expense of about $150,000.

Some items on the project wish list remain on the bubble in terms of whether they will fit within the budget. One item, a paved student drop-off loop on the east side of the building, is unlikely to make the cut, Marino said.

The project is due for completion next summer.

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