BHS wing running months off schedule

Students and staff at Bainbridge High School will have to make due with close quarters well into the fall, as the opening of a new wing has been postponed from August until November.

The decision was made to emphasize quality, while compensating for delays in construction, Bainbridge School District Capital Facilities Director Tamela Van Winkle said.

“In an effort to continue our focus on quality, and with an understanding of the market environment and a collaborative effort with our contractors, we decided the school district should extend the timeline,” Van Winkle said.

While the move-in date has changed, the length of the contract with Leo Finnegan Construction and the $22.7 million cost for the district remains the same. BHS Principal Brent Peterson said the adjusted timeline is disappointing but worth it.

“All of us would have loved the idea of being in there the first day of school,” Peterson said. “But I think the staff and students get it, that it’s more important to do the project right.”

The 18 classrooms displaced by construction will continue to use temporary spaces in portable buildings and at Commodore. The kitchen and lunch room have been housed in a gym.

“On one level it means simply that we’ll roll into next year using the same class structure and same facilities,” Peterson said. “We’ve had a school year to deal with that, and its not perfect, we’ve made some compromises but it’s something we can make work for an extra three months.”

Construction on the new 70,000 square-foot 200 Building, which will include a commons area, library, classrooms and offices, began last summer. Its opening was slated for the beginning of the 2008 fall semester.

Work so far has focused on the construction of concrete walls, which will serve as the building’s supporting skeleton, and in many places, its finished interior surface. The district’s contractor has provided a dedicated crew for the concrete work, which will ensure consistency in the work, but has slowed the process.

Other elements hampering progress are beyond the district’s control, Van Winkle said.

The school construction market has been booming, making it harder to find materials like steel, and subcontractors for the job.

This winter’s weather has also been less than cooperative. Storms in December slowed work, but long wet months and sporadic power outages have taken a toll as well, Van Winkle said.

Still, the walls have grown steadily over the fall and winter and are now 95 percent complete in most of the building. Crews began the installing steel structural beams earlier this month and floor and roof decking materials are arriving.

As construction progresses into finish work next fall, the site can become “dust free.” Furnishings will be installed in advance of the move-in date to allow for a smooth, albeit belated, transition. Peterson said classes will continue uninterrupted until the date of the move, and the shuffle can be made over a holiday or weekend.

Van Winkle said the decision to delay the building’s opening was made after long deliberation with the contractor, and she expects it to be the final occupancy date adjustment.

“I feel as confident as I can at this point in the project,” Van Winkle said. “We’ve worked on the schedule together, so we all have a high level of confidence in it.”

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