Renovation, repair projects underway at Jackson, Oak Ridge schools

Thursday, April 5, 2012
Cory Seabaugh with MSI Electric Inc. works on rewiring the concession stand Wednesday at Oak Ridge School. A tornado tore Feb. 29, caused extensive damage to the school. (Laura Simon)

Bond issues for two local school districts passed by voters Tuesday will keep repair and renovation activity bustling now through the summer in Oak Ridge and prompt more extensive planning in Jackson.

The projects differ greatly in size, scope and price, but both won overwhelming approval in this week's municipal elections.

Workers on the grounds of Oak Ridge schools this week are still making repairs to a concession stand damaged in a February tornado. Damaged fencing and bleachers are also back up and a dugout is repaired. Repairs to the roof of the high school gym will begin when the district's insurance company completes a final report, said Dr. Gerald Landewee, superintendent of the district. When school lets out for the summer, the school district will be making improvements with $1.5 million in bond money instead of insured repairs.

Requests for bids to upgrade several systems in elementary buildings will go out soon, Landewee said. Early August is the targeted completion date for installing new plumbing, electrical and heating and cooling systems; some new windows and paneling; new roofs on the main elementary building and library wing and several other renovations. Landewee said he expects the total cost for the improvements to come very close to the full bond issue amount.

Activity on 15 mostly wooded acres on the west side of North Lacey Street in Jackson could take a while longer to see.

Superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson said bids for the approximately 98,000-square-foot elementary school will likely go out sometime this winter. There is much planning work still to be done by interior designers before the district is ready to ask for proposals, he said.

Current plans for the $16 million project call for enough classrooms to hold four sections of kindergarten through fifth grades, a music room, art room, gym, cafeteria, library and 10 preschool classrooms. Flexibility of space for accommodating the growth in student population anticipated by school officials will be a key in planning, Anderson said, as it was in the planning for the district's junior high school building and high school addition. Movable walls were included in many spaces in those buildings.

"We want to be able to meet the needs we will have in the future without moving walls," Anderson said. "To be able to do that, you have to think ahead."

There is not yet a date available for when students could attend the new school, nor is the district ready to begin redrawing boundary lines. The district may release an estimated open date when the bidding process begins, Anderson said, and an availability of good weather in the late fall of 2013 through spring of 2014 will determine how well a construction timeline can be met.

Right now the district has West Lane and Orchard elementary schools picked as top targets for reducing overflow of students creating space for growth. That could be different by the time the district is ready to draw the lines, however, depending on the population changes of the areas served by those schools, Anderson said.

Drawing new boundary lines to determine what students can attend the new school won't be as complex as Anderson originally thought, he said. That will be done by taking the immediate area around the building and combining it with areas that could create needed relief in other buildings, he said.

South Elementary will also have free space when preschoolers move to the new school.


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