Construction behind, schools to start late

Several construction projects are under way at Lovell High School including a new addition to the gymnasium that will house a weight room. Patti Carpenter photo
Several construction projects are under way at Lovell High School including a new addition to the gymnasium that will house a weight room.
Patti Carpenter photo

Unanticipated delays created by additional asbestos material removal requirements and other construction-related change orders will delay the start of the school year for students in Big Horn County School District 2 by seven days. The matter was discussed at great length during a district board of trustees meeting held on Wednesday, July 16, in the community conference room at Big Horn Federal Bank. Parents were notified of the changes by mail and through the district’s automated phone system. Changes affect all schools in the district.

The original start date for students was Thursday, Aug. 21. Students in all three schools in the district will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 2, which is the day after Labor Day. School will also end one week later on May 29, instead of the originally scheduled date of May 22.

The graduation date for high school seniors, which was previously scheduled for May 18, will now take place on May 26, the day after Memorial Day. Since this is the same evening that Rocky Mountain High School will hold its graduation, an earlier staggered time schedule is under consideration.

Combining the “grad night out party” for both schools is also under consideration. Supt. Rick Woodford said he is already working with SD1 School Superintendent Shon Hocker to coordinate the graduation ceremonies so that families will be able to attend both graduations if necessary. He said he is also working with the grad night out organizers so that both schools can share the festivities.

“Of course, none of these ideas are set in stone yet, but as the community becomes aware of the situation, we hope they will give us feedback on these ideas,” said Woodford after the meeting.  “In fact, the district is asking for feedback about the proposed change in graduation. If we could do something like have one ceremony start at 5 and another at 7, it might work out alright for everyone concerned.”

Woodford pointed out that the graduation can’t take place the Thursday or Friday of the week prior because of the state track meet, which takes place May 21-22. He said having graduation the night before, on May 20, would make it difficult for some athletes who are also graduating seniors to enjoy their graduation night activities. Holding graduation on May 18 would not allow for enough instructional days and hours to meet state requirements. The state requires students to have 175 days of instruction or 1,100 hours of instruction during the school year.

“Since that is the state statute, we have to meet those provisions, which limits how we can organize the schedule,” he said.

The schedule for teachers has also changed. Originally, teachers were to begin work on Aug. 14. They will start work one week later on Aug. 21.

The discovery of asbestos during a routine inspection in the carpet removed from the classroom areas, hallways and library delayed the project by 10 days. Contractors were not allowed to work in the area, while this additional abatement work was being done. Additionally, contractors found obstacles under the drywall that were not indicated on the “as built” plans supplied by the architect. These discrepancies required change orders, adding an additional five days to the schedule.

Since the required changes delay construction by 15 days, other dates in the district’s school year calendar were changed in addition to the start and end dates in order to make up the difference. Students will attend school on three days (May 1, Jan. 19 and Sept. 22) that were previously scheduled as teacher “in-service” days. Those in-service days for teachers have been moved to August before students start school. The state requires teachers to attend 10 in-service days during the school year, which is why the days have been moved.

On Monday, July 21, Woodford reported that the contractors had already made up some days by working overtime during the week and on the weekend. He said they had already made up three days as of that date and they were on track to make up even more days.

“This will also allow us the time necessary to get the furniture moved back into the classrooms and to set up in time for school to begin,” said Woodford. “It should give us all the time we need to have everything ready when kids show up on the first day of school.”

During the meeting, architects from Plan One presented their ideas for alternative finishes on the exterior of the school building housing the new multi-purpose room, including treatments that use colored stucco over existing brick as a way of matching materials used in new areas. It was noted by the architects that the stucco not only enhances the aesthetics of the building but also adds to the R-value, which provides additional insulation. Renderings were presented for two alternative color schemes. Board members asked for additional renderings showing how the finishes look next to other buildings on campus.

The architects explained that different materials were used on the addition in order to accommodate structural support on the new walls. Woodford said he is asking the State School Facilities Dept. to allow use of contingency funds to pay for the project or approving major maintenance funds for the project, which could cost around $50,000.

“I’m pushing hard for contingency funds because we found out there is more than we thought in that fund a few weeks ago,” said Woodford. “This would be good because we could use those major maintenance dollars in other places. If we don’t use that contingency money, it just goes back to the state anyway.”

He added that it is important how the building looks to students when they walk into it. He said how students feel about the building is important to their learning environment.

Woodford said other projects appear to be on schedule, including the multi-purpose room, the new weight room, the athletic playing fields and the bus lanes. He said he expects the early teacher in-service days in August to be held in the new multipurpose room.

In other matters, the board approved a request by Woodford, allowing him to approve student handbooks prior to presentation to the board. He argued that the handbooks are actually “procedural” in nature rather than “policy” related, which makes it appropriate for him to review and approve the contents.

The resignation of paraprofessional Stevie Sammons was accepted by the board, along with the hiring of Lisa Rael to replace Sammons as a paraprofessional at the middle school.

The board also briefly discussed the agreement between the Town of Lovell and the school district regarding use and maintenance of the swimming pool. Woodford said he was comfortable with the agreement, which allows students in the district to use the facility but requires the district to pay certain costs connected with maintaining the facility. The board approved the agreement on his recommendation.

The low bid lease submitted by the Bank of Lovell was approved for purchase of new school buses.

By Patti Carpenter