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Officials, students break ground at DES

121212Ground breakingBy CALVIN PYNN

calvin@www.southwesttimes.com

 

While the project to renovate Dublin Elementary School has been in gestation since 2012, going through numerous financial hurdles, progress is now officially under way.

The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors last November allocated $3.4 million to be spent on the renovation project in order to add on a new wing of classrooms and install air conditioning in the school. This is expected to eliminate overcrowding issues in the building, as well as the tendency for classrooms to get hot, a problem with which the school has dealt for quite some time. The new wing will add eight classrooms, eliminating the need for mobile units outside the school.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday at Dublin Elementary on the side of the school where the new wing will be built. Members of the Pulaski County School Board and Board of Supervisors attended the ceremony, along with all of the school’s faculty, staff and students, as well as some parents.

“You’re sitting on the site of our new eight-classroom addition,” Dublin Elementary principal Michael Perry told the crowd of students and teachers. “Goodbye, mobile units!”

Superintendent Dr. Tom Brewster echoed that sentiment with a humorous quip about the mobile units when he spoke to the gathering.

“We’re gonna be auctioning off mobile units today,” Brewster joked. “The price starts at zero, and ends at zero. You can take them on your way out.”

On a more serious note, Brewster said the call to renovate the 50-year-old school is something that’s been going since he first started his job as superintendent of Pulaski County Public Schools in 2012. He recalls at one point even being locked in the teachers’ room by members of the Parent-Teacher Organization to see just how hot the rooms in the building can get.

“This is an exciting time for our school district, and our Dublin Elementary School community,” Brewster said of the renovations.

When school board chairman Michael Barbour spoke, he said the school’s problems are something with which he’s always been personally familiar as well.

“As many of you know, my wife taught here,” Barbour said. “I know firsthand about the heat and overcrowding here.”

Pulaski County Administrator Pete Huber attributed the school’s progress to the cooperation between the two boards.

“The key to the future is in the way that we work with each other,” Huber said. He also encouraged everyone at the ceremony to look beyond the walls of the school and reach out to organizations that help students who struggle during the summer without benefits provided during the school year.

“Education has been one of the high priorities we’ve worked to fund over the years,” said Joe Sheffey, chairman for the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors.

He cited a number of projects the county has undertaken during the past two decades to renovate the schools, such as Critzer Elementary, which was renovated in 1999 for $3,304,024. Pulaski Elementary was built in 2006 at a cost of $10,883,913, while Snowville Elementary cost $5,021,920 when it was built in 1999, and Riverlawn Elementary cost $21,700,825 when it was built in 2010.

“I’m sorry it took a little longer than we hoped, but I can tell you that come December, you’ll notice the change, and we’re very proud of that,” Sheffey said.

The architectural duties for the additions to Dublin Elementary were handled by the Roanoke-based firm Spectrum Design. The firm’s president, David Bandy, said mechanical air conditioning units, which can be controlled by each teacher in their own classrooms, are already in production.

Those units will be installed in each of Dublin Elementary’s 30 classrooms. There will also be new electrical upgrades and safety renovations, along with redesigned restrooms and new layouts for the classrooms, in which Bandy said “every room will have a window seat.”

He added that some aesthetic features will be put in as well, with special tiling that will be installed to create a warmer, more laidback looking atmosphere.

“I assure you it’s not gonna be a hallway of just windows and doors,” Bandy said. “It’s gonna be beautiful.”

He said a civil site plan has been approved, and the new building will feature 330 cubic yards of concrete. As of right now, everything is going according to plan, he said.

“We’re under budget, we’re on schedule and congratulations,” Bandy said.

G&H Contracting will handle the work on Dublin Elementary, the bulk of which will start when students get out for summer break at the end of the month, according to project supervisor Kenny Graham. He said that so far, a gas line has been installed where the new wing will be constructed, and a window has been removed to get a head start and find out what it will take to replace the other windows.

“The minute they’re out of school, we’ll be in that building working,” Graham said.

G&H specializes in renovating older school buildings. According to Troy Henderson, the other project supervisor, Dublin Elementary will be the seventh school on which they have worked.

The last renovation project was security upgrades for all of Roanoke County’s schools. G&H also built a new school in South Salem and Masons Cove in the same area, as well as an addition to Burlington Elementary in Roanoke County that was similar to what will be done in Dublin.

“Burlington Elementary is basically another model of this facility, and we worked with the same architect,” Henderson said.

According to Henderson, the addition to the school is expected to be “pretty cut forth,” as it’s something they’ve already done, and as far as revenue is concerned, he said that has not proved to be much of a difficulty.

“We’ve got a lot of experience in very fast projects, quick turnarounds,” Henderson said. “We’re very adept at very tight schedules.”

Graham said the 60-day time frame with which they are working for the first part of the project definitely counts as a tight schedule. The entire addition is expected to be completed by winter break of the 2015-16 school year.

“Anytime you do an addition to a school in six months, that’s pretty fast paced, too,” Henderson said.

Graham said working with a tight window of time takes a lot of hard work, while Henderson added that it takes a lot of patience, communication and pushing.

“Every day you hit a problem, it’s about how you handle it,” Henderson said. “It’s not if you have a problem, it’s when and how fast you get by it.”

For now, the dirt has been turned to signify the start of the project, as the ground breaking for the new addition was commemorated by school and county officials and student representatives when they moved the soil with golden shovels. In the middle was a four-handled shovel attached to one blade, representing the unity between the different governmental bodies to make the project possible.

While the school year is winding down with less than a month left, the students who return to Dublin Elementary next fall will come back to the site of a new school.

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