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Gastineau Elementary construction delays through school start

Posted: August 20, 2011 - 10:49pm
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First grade teacher Katy Ritter moves furniture in her newly remodeled classroom at Gastineau Elementary School on Friday. The first day of school is Tuesday.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
First grade teacher Katy Ritter moves furniture in her newly remodeled classroom at Gastineau Elementary School on Friday. The first day of school is Tuesday.

Construction delays throughout the summer at Gastineau Elementary for its two-year renovation project means work will be ongoing as students begin their first week of school.

The school is trying to make the situation as low-impact to students as possible, as workers will not be in classrooms throughout the day. The largest piece of the project yet to be completed is the cabinetry. The cabinetry is where all the classroom supplies are supposed to go along with coat hooks and backpacks.

Some classrooms have more cabinetry finished than others, but large sections of cabinets are sitting on the classroom floors. This leaves boxes and boxes of classroom supplies stacked up in the classroom, leading to cramped quarters.

“School will still start on time,” said Juneau School District Communications Manager Kristin Bartlett. “Teachers are setting up their classrooms to set up a welcoming environment. Construction will happen after hours and on weekends. (The project) won’t be done, but kids will be coming back to school. There’s just going to have to be some work that will be done when they’re not there.”

Bartlett said the delay in construction came due to of a couple of reasons.

“At the beginning of the project, the work that was done to remove the flooring and the adhesives for the flooring and the abatement of the materials took longer than they initially thought,” she said. “I think they’ve also had some delays with suppliers.”

Bartlett said the contractor is waiting for the arrival of pieces needed to install the cabinetry.

“It’s here for some of the classes, most of it is here for other classrooms but pieces haven’t arrived yet,” she said. “As far as the rest of the project, everything else should be ready to go. It will be inspected on Monday. All the mechanical systems will be inspected. At that time it will be approved for temporary occupancy for students. The main delay as far as the impact to students and delay is cabinetry in the classrooms.”

City and Borough of Juneau engineering Project Manager Nathan Coffee is working closely with the district on the renovation.

He confirmed via e-mail, and would not answer questions via telephone, that the cabinetry piece is the largest portion of the project remaining, but said that there are other small items that still need to be completed “prior to season 1 work being deemed substantially complete.”

He said total project completion is around 95 percent, while the cabinetry and related trade work is only 25 percent complete.

Workers, teachers and other staff will spend the weekend cleaning up the building, removing plastic sheeting and cardboard over the new carpets and touching up as much as possible as teachers continue to prepare their classrooms to welcome in students and for Monday’s inspection.

Coffee said a certificate of temporary occupancy, as opposed to final certificate, allows occupancy until all requirements are met. Coffee said that it is probable the building will retain the temporary certificate through next year, since the renovation is a multi-year project.

“A temporary certificate of occupancy will not be issued if life safety or building code issues exist,” he wrote.

Some construction details may take a bit longer to clear out. The gym was used as the staging area and still contains many materials. Ceiling tiles are also currently missing in places, however those are likely to be replaced before students arrive.

“The part that’s done looks great,” Bartlett said. “It’s such an improvement. There are new bathrooms and there’s new skylight in the classroom wing so it really opened it up. Only the classroom wing has been touched during this phase of the renovation. Next summer they’ll work on the common areas, the gym and the library. The entrance is going to be changed.”

Gastineau parent Julie Costello said the new school principal sent out a voice message to all parents notifying them that not all pieces of construction were complete, however school would still start on Tuesday. Costello wasn’t really concerned with the ongoing renovations.

“I think the teachers are going to be scrambling a bit,” she said. “From what I understand it’s going to be up and going. I think they’ll be in over the weekend doing their best.”

Bartlett said current estimations for final completion will be around mid-September. She said Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich and the building superintendent are working closely to expedite the process where feasible.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com

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