Officials, contractors work to make new school zone safe

Posted: Thursday, August 18, 2005

With the start of the school year around the corner and work at the new Mendenhall Valley high school underway, school officials and contractors have been working to make the area safe for students and pedestrians.

Glacier State Contractors, R & M Engineering and the Juneau School District have developed safety standards that will be in place while the clearing and excavation of the school site at Dimond Park continues over the next several months.

Deb Morse, the Juneau School District facilities planner, said the site will be fenced off and flaggers will work when children are coming and going from school. She said there are two entrances to the site and the trucks that are removing debris will not cross in front of Riverbend Elementary School.

Construction signs also will be in place to alert drivers to take precautions while driving in the area. The debris removed from the site will be hauled between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday along Riverside Drive, Stephen Richards Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road.

The project is going well but is off to a slow start, said Doug Strand, a civil engineer with R & M Engineering.

"They're probably about a week behind the latest schedule they submitted. But they are still intending to complete the work on time," he said.

Strand said Glacier State Contractors has done about 80 percent of the clearing work and should start on the storm drains next week and the excavation in about two weeks. He said the excavation of roughly 53,000 cubic yards should take about four months.

Riverbend Principal Carmen Katasse said she has been in close contact with construction officials and has kept them informed about the progress so she can help keep the students safe when they begin school on Wednesday.

"They've been very accommodating and very willing to work with me," she said.

Katasse said she will talk with her students when school begins to make sure they know the construction site is off limits and to be mindful of the traffic.

She knows that some of the older students might be tempted to explore the site so officials have discussed ways to persuade them not to do so unattended.

"They actually invited us to set up a time to go back there and show the kids what's going on to lessen the curiosity," Katasse said.

Strand said the city Parks and Recreation Department has stationed a groundskeeper on site to prevent unauthorized access at night.

"There's a lot of dangers out there with trip hazards and there's soon to be open excavations," he said.

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