Students and parents made their way through the tables of information at Snider High School on Friday during registration. But unlike people at other schools, Snider families had a chance to tour temporary classrooms that will be used while the school undergoes construction.
When Joe Brames, a parent of two Snider students, heard about the mobile classrooms, he was a little concerned, but his idea of what they would look like changed Friday.
Actually seeing the quality construction, I’m kind of impressed, he said of the mobile units.
Ceiling tiles have been removed in much of the school, exposing piping and electrical wiring. Last week, steel beams were being installed to carry the weight of the new pipes that will be placed in the ceiling to eliminate the need for the existing tunnel system in the school. Snider is just one of several sites that are under construction this summer for upgrades and renovations.
As parents and families head to stores to buy pencils, backpacks and notebooks, construction crews will be putting the finishing touches on summer renovations at sites throughout Fort Wayne Community Schools, many in time for students’ return on Aug. 19.
This summer marked the first of the district’s $119 million School Building Basic Renewal/Restoration and Safety Project, which was approved by 67 percent of voters last year. The project will make improvements at 36 schools over three years.
The three sites receiving the most work are Snider High School, Harrison Hill Elementary School and Memorial Park Middle School. Those projects will continue over the next two years; the work at Harrison Hill is scheduled to be completed in December 2014.
Construction crews will work in Harrison Hill and Memorial Park after school hours to reduce disruptions, said Darren Hess, FWCS director of facilities. Both schools will receive close to $10 million in upgrades to the heating and cooling systems, roof replacements and classroom infrastructure changes. Some shifting in schedules will likely be required for after-school activities.
The work at Harrison Hill and Memorial Park this summer hasn’t disrupted many students, but at Snider, band students and athletes use the building and some outdoor areas around the school during the summer.
Football training and practice has been moved across the street to Lane Middle School, Hess said. Band members stay mostly in the parking lot and other designated areas.
Snider’s renovations will total about $40 million, according to the district’s current estimates. About half is dedicated to infrastructure including replacing the heating and cooling system and windows, restoring masonry, installing a new bus lane and adding underground storm water retention.
The school’s heating and cooling system currently operates within the same pipes, which has caused great wear and tear. The new system being installed in the ceiling will have two separate sets of pipes, one for heating, the other for cooling.
The remaining work will be to make the school safer and more accessible for those with disabilities as wells as improve classrooms that need new carpet, blinds, flooring, ceilings, lights and doors.
The bus lane installation has been delayed and increased in cost because of wet weather, but should be ready to go for the fall, Hess said. But for the next two years, the lane will be used for construction traffic only.
The scope of work at Snider required renovations during the school year that require some students to attend classes in mobile units. The installation of the mobile classrooms is nearly complete. Crews will continue work in the building, although separated from students, throughout the school year.
The mobile classrooms are strikingly similar to regular classrooms. The district is leasing 20 modular classrooms that also have teacher work rooms, restrooms and drinking fountains. Crews will equip the modular units with security cameras and a PA system for students to hear bells and announcements. The hallway of the modular unit leading to the classrooms will be attached to a door on the side of the school, so students won’t have to walk outside to get to class.
They are installed off the south end of the school, nearest the main and auxiliary gyms and locker rooms. Hess said the school officials will see how the first days of class go and adjust bell times if necessary to allow students enough time to get to their classrooms in the mobile units.
The preparation and cleaning of one modular was complete Friday so that families and students could walk through after registration.
Hess was on hand Friday to direct families through the mobile units. He said most parents and students were surprised like Brames was to see how similar the mobile classrooms are to the classrooms in the main building.
They’re a lot bigger than I thought they would be, Avery Volz, freshman, said. She and friend Emily Walls, also a freshman, walked through the units to learn where their classes would be located. Both students like the light allowed in the hallways with the windows and said they wouldn’t mind having a class or two in the temporary units.
When students return to school, a solid barrier will separate them from construction workers, who will have their own entrance and parking area, Hess said.
Demolition and asbestos abatement have begun in the west wing of the school where crews will continue work into the school year. Ceiling tiles are stacked in the hallway of the wing, waiting to be taken for recycling. Lockers have been moved out of that wing of the hallway into other areas where there’s space.
The district’s building project overall was to address basic needs of schools that couldn’t be done on an annual basis because of a lack of funding, so students and families shouldn’t expect to see immediate change.
Most of the work is behind the walls, Hess said. It might be awhile before they start noticing any changes.