WCS prepares for 15 months of construction

Teachers begin packing up for asbestos abatement

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

The $20 million renovation project scheduled to start in June at Williston Central School is a hodgepodge of large-scale overhauls and miscellaneous repairs in categories that include ventilation, electrical, plumbing, security, windows and roofs — among other things.

During the majority of the 15-month construction timeframe, school will be in session. To make it all work, school administrators have carved out “swing spaces” within the building to house classrooms as they are displaced on a rotating basis.

Williston School District Principal Greg Marino plans a student assembly this spring to explain the plan to minimize disruption next school year. He has already led sessions for parents and teachers.

“Painstaking efforts have been taken to find a really thoughtful home for everyone next year,” Marino said. “All of us will have to do some sort of relocating … We’re going to get through it together.”

The swing space plan will kick in when the new school year begins. By that time, construction crews will have already been working for three months on asbestos abatement, a front office remodel, fire sprinkler installation and overhauling about a dozen classrooms.

One of the swing spaces will be on the second floor where the science, math and language labs are. The other will be on the first floor where the Kaleidoscope team is. Kaleidoscope will move in with the Mosaic team for the entire school year, Marino said.

The swing spaces are designed to retain the school’s team-based learning structure, with teams moving into the swing spaces for about 10 weeks at a time while their classrooms are being renovated.

Staff that normally works in what will become the swing spaces will be relocated for the entire year, Marino said.

ReArch Company of South Burlington is the general contractor. President Bert DeLaBruere said as many as 80 workers will be on site during school days, many of them working for subcontracting companies.

“We really want to keep the contractors isolated from the kids,” he said. “That’s really important to us.”

He added that a temporary parking lot for construction crews will be carved out so regular school parking does not get overwhelmed.

DeLaBruere and David Epstein from architect TruexCullins attended the information session with teachers. They were asked about the possibility of sporadically using the project as a learning opportunity.

“If kids have questions, we love to answer questions about architecture,” Epstein said. “So feel free to bother us about that.”

Marino informed teachers and staff that, because asbestos abatement is the first piece of the project this spring, the majority of classrooms will have to be packed and cleared before school ends. Teachers will move back into their classes in the fall, only to be displaced again during classroom renovations next school year.

“One way or another, every place that’s being abated this summer has to be completely packed up,” Marino said. “We can start packing up as early as we want … This is an opportunity to purge stuff you haven’t used for two, three or four years.”

During next year’s renovations, classrooms will be receiving new flooring, carpeting, windows, paint and lighting. Most of the common spaces like the gym, library, cafeteria, locker rooms, auditorium and corridors will be upgraded in the summer of 2018.

“The construction is going to be very intense,” DeLaBruere said. “We don’t want this to go into (the 2018/2019) school year.”

As subcontractor bids come in, the actual scope of the project is being tweaked to stay under the roughly $20 million that Williston voters approved last November.

One piece that may be cut, Marino said, is the paved student drop-off loop envisioned for the east side of the building.

“We are already having conversations about things we thought would be in the project that may not be able to be in the project,” he said.

The biggest item, which is expected to account for about 25 percent of the project budget, is the heating and ventilation system replacement. Although it’s an out-of-sight improvement, it will have perhaps the most impact.

“In terms of fresh air and thermal comfort, it’s going to be like a different building,” said Epstein.

The district plans to launch a website with ongoing blog posts to keep the community informed of the project’s progress.