Renovations to Jeff-Craig set to begin; new central office moving forward

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If summer is the time when schools are closed and students and staff can relax, that certainly isn’t the case in the Switzerland County School Corporation; as two major summer projects are about to get underway.

The school corporation has approved a major renovation project for Jefferson-Craig Elementary School, which is aimed at bringing the 50+ year school up to date with technology and also save on utility bills.

“We have been working with a company called ‘Energy Systems Group’,” School Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Jones said. “They come in and see where they can save us money in energy costs, and then help us implement those savings. For instance, they guarantee us that by putting in new lights, we will save a certain amount of money, so we’re not just spending money. We will see significant savings to our bills.”

Work that will be done on Jefferson-Craig includes all new lighting in the building; new doors and windows, new ceiling tiles, and also upgrades to the electrical systems and the bathrooms.

Dr. Jones said that the school board had hoped to have the project underway at this point in the summer, but state and federal regulations have slowed the process. She said that the school corporation had to go through a prevailing wage hearing, and that hearing had a predetermined date that couldn’t be pushed up.

After that hearing, the school corporation had to wait two weeks before it could sign any contracts.

The contracts for the renovations were to be signed yesterday (Wednesday); and work should begin soon.

“We followed the law,” Dr. Jones said. “We’ve done everything that was required of us, even though it meant slowing the project down considerably.”

One of the major issues that the school board insisted on was that Energy Systems Group use local workers whenever possible – and that has been done. Kelso Builders got the contract for the construction; and Crawford Electric will do the electrical work.

“They’ve already been having meetings and planning,” the superintendent said. “I think that actual work will begin very quickly once all of the contracts are signed.”

Dr. Jones said that the lighting and the electrical systems are a huge issue, mainly because nothing has been upgraded since the school was built in 1954.

Long before computers and other electrical components in classrooms; the Jeff-Craig classrooms only have one or two electrical outlets in the entire room – which has limited what teachers can use in terms of technology in teaching students.

“When it’s over, we’re going to have state of the art electric; white boards for the kids; and other improvements that will benefit everyone,” the superintendent said. “Some of those rooms had 1954 lighting and electric. It’s work that needs to be done.”

Another major renovation project is the changing of the front door entrance to the school.

Dr. Jones said that an additional set of doors will be installed at the main entrance and a new door will be cut into the interior wall of the building. That door will take visitors through the office area before they can go out into the school.

“I think that this is a security measure to help protect our children,” the superintendent said.

As for the bathroom renovation, Dr. Jones said that taxpayers may not see much cost savings from the improvements, but it is a project that definitely needs to be done.

With work beginning soon and the opening of the school year now about a month away, Dr. Jones said that the work will not be completed by the opening of the year.

“It will be finished after school starts,” Dr. Jones said. “I’m hoping that it will all be done by the end of September. I’ve asked the builders to do the classrooms first, so when school starts there will be less intrusion into the lives of the students.”

Dr. Jones said that once the classrooms are completed, workers will move on to work on areas such as the library and computer room and other areas that school officials may be able to work around at the beginning of the year.

“One good thing is that we’re not taking ISTEP tests in the fall, so that won’t be a problem for students,” Superintendent Jones said.

With the changes to the main entrance of the school, Dr. Jones also said that there is a good chance that the main entrance will be closed when school begins next month. She said that officials are looking at using the Dupraz Lane drop off area as the main drop point for students.

“We know that rerouting students will be a big inconvenience, but it will hopefully be finished as quickly as possible,” Dr. Jones said.

The superintendent also said that the construction will mean that kindergarten children who will be participating in the “Jump Start” project at the end of July will be at the middle school rather than at Jefferson-Craig; but holds out hope that the regular kindergarten classrooms can be used.

“We’re going to plan on ‘Jump Start’ being at the middle school,” Dr. Jones said. “If they get the kindergarten rooms done early, then great; but we’re going to plan on using the middle school.”

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The other major project that the school corporation is tackling is the construction of a new central office and administration building. Administrators have been using temporary offices at the middle school and at Jefferson-Craig since health concerns pushed them out of the old high school on Seminary Street; and the school board has approved construction of a new administration building on land that the corporation already owns on State Road 56 west of the high school.

“Again, you have to follow procedures,” Dr. Jones said. “We will look at the final drawings with the architect on July 16th; and members of the board and other members of the community who have been helping us will look everything over.”

Dr. Jones said that the architects will then take back any changes to the building that are asked for at the meeting of the 16th; and then will make a presentation of the final plans at the school board meeting set for Monday evening, July 20th.

Once those drawings are approved, the school board will begin the process of putting the building out for bids.

Currently there is no set timeline for construction and completion; because nothing can be finalized until bids are received and approved.