Work continues on expansion, renovation of Switzerland County Elementary School


As Switzerland County school children have Spring Break over the next two weeks, work is still going strong at Switzerland County Elementary School.

Contractors are busily working on the $2 million addition to the building, which, when completed, will include five new classrooms as well as several improvements and renovations to the existing building. Work is expected to be complete by the end of July, allowing students to move into the new facilities when the 2013-2014 school year starts on August 1st.

At the core of that expansion will be the return of sixth grade students to the school. For the past three years, all sixth grade students have attended Jefferson-Craig Elementary School in Vevay; but with the new classroom space, students who attend Switzerland County Elementary School for kindergarten through fifth grade will now remain at SCES until they go to Switzerland County Middle School as seventh graders.

Sixth grade students have not attended Switzerland County Elementary School since the middle school was constructed in 1997.

“Everything’s going great,” Switzerland County Elementary School Principal Sally Weales said this week. “We’re only a couple of weeks behind due to the weather, having a lot of snow and rain, but they are intending to get caught back up this summer.”

Sally Weales said that contractors are currently working both inside and outside at the school, moving to the exterior of the building as weather permits. She said that in order to have as minimal disruption for the students as possible, contractors work outside during the day while classes are in session, and then move inside at night after the children leave.

With Spring Break over the next two weeks, various sub contractors have come to the school to get maximum work done before students return on April 1st.

“They are hoping to get a week caught up here during Spring Break if the weather permits,” Principal Weales said. “We will be finished on August 1st and ready for business.”

When the initial construction first began at the school, Sally Weales said that it was a real learning experience for the students, who were all very interested in all of the heavy construction work going on around them.

Now, the learning continues – but in a different way.

“Right now it’s a lot of learning on being a little bit quieter, because we’ve had the ceilings out,” Sally Weales said. “At night they’ve been taking down the ceilings and replacing the light fixtures, so the ceiling grids have been out. They’ve really enjoyed watching that progress being made, but it’s been a little bit louder than usual, but they’ve dealt with it very well.”

Sally Weales said that workers have already completed the lighting project in the library, and have also replaced all of the lights in the lower pod and the middle pod; and this week work was continuing on getting the ceiling grids back up. She said that it’s a long process, because after the grids come down, electricians have to come in and they are followed by the ventilation people, who have to make sure that the airflow is correct. Once that is all done, then the new ceiling tiles can be installed. It is hoped that the upper pod ceiling and lighting will be replaced by the time Spring Break is over.

She said that there are currently several different crews on site at the school, as the general contractor has brought in several sub-contractors to perform specific projects within the scope of the entire contract. So at any given moment, different crews are working on different elements.

Another ongoing project is the updating and renovation of the bathrooms, where demolition is taking place so that all of the restrooms can be renovated and updated. They will also comply fully with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements.

One of the areas of the construction that had concerned the children at the school was the fate of a tree that holds special meaning for the kids.

When initial plans were drawn up, the tree, which is near where the new classrooms are being built, was going to be taken down in order to make it easier for workers and equipment to move in and out of the construction area.

Sally Weales said that when students learned that the tree was scheduled to be cut down, they rallied together and petitioned the architects and contractors to save the tree.

They were successful.

“They saved the tree,” Sally Weales said. “They didn’t have to move it and they didn’t have to cut it down. The workers left it there and trimmed some branches and worked around it. We were all happy about that.”

For the first week of Spring Break, there are Intercession programs going on at the school, but Principal Weales said that those classes are being held in the upper pod area of the school while work continues in other areas, so the construction is not affecting the classroom work.

Beginning Monday, there won’t be any students in the building, so work should progress at an even faster rate.

Sally Weales said the work that will be done in the administrative area of the school will get underway the day after school is out for the summer. That work will involve updating and expansion of the nurse’s area, as well as new security measures.