School events moved
Construction delays have forced the Ely School District to move three home athletic events set for this week, but the first day of classes remains set for Sept. 12.
Delays related to work on the exterior of the campus, including the paving of parking lots, prompted the change in venue for high school volleyball games slated for Tuesday and Thursday, as well as Friday’s football home opener with Cromwell.
Plans are to move the volleyball games to Vermilion Community College and the football game to Babbitt, but those details were not finalized prior to the Echo’s printing deadline.
Meanwhile, a back to school open house event set for Thursday is on as scheduled, although paving work may not be complete at that time.
The developments came as contractors were putting the finishing touches on a $20 million-plus school renovation project.
School teachers and staff reported for work earlier this week while contractors continued to work both inside and outside the buildings.
In early-August school officials pushed back the start of the school year by nearly a week to provide more time to finish the project and make sure the buildings and grounds were ready for the influx of more than 500 students as well as faculty and staff.
The Sept. 12 starting date for students remains amid a scramble to get both the exterior and interior work done.
Outside the school walls, the front, east side and part of the rear of the campus have been torn up for major infrastructure work - efforts that have been prolonged by the discovery of ledge rock and a need for blasting.
Paving was to begin earlier this week with the intent of it being done by Sept. 2, but those plans were pushed back this week.
Once complete, there will be not one but two “circle” areas for student drop off and pickup as well as reconfigured parking lots.
The inside of the buildings remains a construction zone, but there has been significant progress in teh last several days.
A new addition, one that will provide for not only a secure entrance but several new amenities is nearing completion.
It will house a gymnasium, cafeteria and commons space, a media center, music and industrial education classroom spaces and serve as the new home for district, high school and elementary offices.
The new addition will also connect the century-old Washington and Memorial buildings and serve as the primary entrance to the campus during the school day.
Parts of the existing buildings have also been renovated, and cleaning continues to get the facilities ready for occupancy.
Some portions of the project, including completion of locker rooms in the high school, will continue into the fall.
The school year was originally set to begin Tuesday, Sept. 6, but school officials decided in early-August to push the start back by six days to allow for more time, particularly for cleaning, amid a tight timeline presented by general contractor Kraus-Anderson Construction.
Administrators said there’s ample room in the school calendar to allow for the delay of the school year, without having to tack on extra days at the end.
Even with the delay, the district remains above the state’s minimum requirements for school days and student attendance hours, and there could be other options, including extending time to the school day or turning a vacation day into a school day during the course of the year, should the calendar be disrupted later on by “snow days” or other postponements.
The discovery of ledge rock has required blasting in the process of installing new water and sewer lines, and security fencing has been installed around school parking lots while work has continued.
The latest expenses related to blasting, including a roughly $300,000 hit reported in August, appear to have drained the contingency fund and further costs are expected to create overruns.
According to an estimate presented at the Aug. 22 school board session, the contingency fund had $251,861 remaining, but anticipated expenditures related to the additional rock and the discovery of a buried foundation were listed as “pending.”
As much as $4.5 million in additional funding for the initiative, both to cover excess costs and to complete portions that have been scrapped because of the overruns, could have been coming Ely’s way had it not been for a state legislative session that ended without an agreement.
Through lobbyists Jeff Anderson and Gary Cerkvenik, the district is expected to make another run at those funds when lawmakers reconvene.