Friday, June 08, 2012

TOP STORY >> PCSSD starts upgrading of area schools

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District will leave no school behind this summer as it ugrades buildings, but some will get more attention than others.

“We are basically touching every school,” said Derek Scott, the district’s chief operating officer.

“Even the smallest project in Jacksonville is important to the school we’re doing it to,” he added.

For years — decades --— Jacksonville-area residents have felt slighted and ignored while new schools were built in other parts of the district, especially the more affluent parts.

“The surprise is that people see movement,” Scott said. “I’m actually excited for the students and the improved learning environment they will be walking into.”

Wittenburg, Delony and Davidson is the architect for most of the work. Baldwin and Shell is the contractor for the Jacksonville-area jobs, Harco for those in the Sherwood area.

About one-third of the $7.3 million in repairs and renovations will be at Jacksonville-area schools, and none more dramatic than demolition of the unsafe, unsightly but iconic split-concrete staircases framing the front entry of Jacksonville High School.

It took a trackhoe and a trackhammer about 90 minutes Friday morning to reduce those steps into 50 tons of rubble, according to project supervisor Tom Smith. A trackhammer is like a giant jackhammer mounted on the arm of a trackhoe.

First the massive structure had to be cut free of the building.

The biggest project of the summer is the $3 million reconstruction of the North Pulaski High School auditorium. That is being paid for by insurance money after a tornado shredded parts of the school last year.

New wood gymnasium floors at North Pulaski and Northwood Middle School are among other high-impact, moral-boosting projects. But nothing is more important than extensive roof repairs, plumbing work and bathroom renovations being done in many district schools.

At Jacksonville Middle School, “we gutted the cafeteria and the media center,” Scott said.

Scott said some people may wonder how there is $7.3 million for repairs, but so little money that teachers salaries, benefits and duty pay are being curtailed.

“I’m extremely excited,” said PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess. “That is building fund money restricted to use for capital improvements. We are prioritizing and spending the money to benefit students, especially using the deseg profiles.”

“Dr. Guess understands that money doesn’t do us any good sitting in an account,” Scott said. “He wants to put it to use.

Brenda Bowles, the director of equity and pupil services, helped make sure that the money was applied to facilities in a fashion that “met the intent of the court (desegregation) order,” Scott said. “She’s making sure we are putting the money in the right places.”

Scott has also pulled the lead custodians from each building into a crew and has them stripping floors and then putting down four coats of wax.

“This is the first time in memory that this has happened,” he said.

More common is the painting and the refinishing or replacement of floor tiles in many schools.

Morale is high among many of the district’s employees, according to communications director Deborah Roush.

“Derek’s whistling in the halls,” she said, and Bowles was visibly and audibly excited when she came back to the central office from Harris Elementary.

“Grandma is anxious to have our own (Jacksonville) school system,” said Carolyn Soles, who had business at the high school Thursday. But she’s happy to see progress in the meanwhile.

“I got two thumbs up from one parent,” said Jacksonville High School principal Henry Anderson.

“When you’ve got a safe and orderly environment, that equals achievement,” he said.

“This will give the students a sense of ownership.”

“One mother was awestruck that we were doing anything,” he said.

Kids are taking care of the library and want to know what they can do, he said.

Jacksonville High School

More than a half million dollars worth of improvements will be made at Jacksonville High School. The upper-level facade will be a glass wall and there will be a new concrete front plaza, according to Scott, with larger lettering identifying the school.

“We’re expanding the cafeteria into two adjoining classrooms,” Scott said.

The $582,600 in improvements include new stage lighting and controls, roof repair and maintenance, stadium lighting fixtures, intercom system, repair flooring and painting of selected areas, plus alarm and security improvements.

Jacksonville Middle School

The middle school also will receive a new entryway, among $347,900 worth of improvements.

The media center will get a makeover, including paint, carpet, furniture, ceiling and lighting.

Workers will make field-house repairs, retile the cafeteria and paint halls, the office and cafeteria.

Tolleson Elementary

The district allotted $79,700 for repairs, most of which were completed in March and April. Retiling the cafeteria appears to be the only major improvement yet to be done.

Northwood Middle School

A new wood gym floor and new plastic seated bleachers will highlight the $672,400 worth of improvements and repairs at the Northwood. The school logo will be embossed emblazoned on the floor.

Less exciting but more important is roof work for the gym, locker rooms and kitchen, and plumbing replacement.

The media center will get a facelift, and a significant number of lockers will be replaced.

North Pulaski High

Among the $550,500 worth of projects being undertaken at North Pulaski High are a new wood gym floor, bleachers repair and painting. Also roof repair as necessary.

Harris Elementary

About $230,000 in repairs are begin undertaken. The roof of the school’s “B” building will be repaired, parts of the school’s interior repainted and the gym stage repaired. Defective doors will be replaced and security lighting and cameras will be upgraded.

Murrell Taylor Elementary

Drainage work will be done and parking expanded, metal awnings are rusted and need to be replaced and some sidewalk work done. The budget is $169,100.

Warren G. Dupree Elementary

Bathrooms will be painted and the floors refinished and four kindergarten classrooms have already been recarpeted.

Pinewood Elementary

Bathroom renovations will cost $35,000.

Sylvan Hills High

Fieldhouse bathroom re-pairs, painting and drainage work are among the work planned. Work on the bell and intercom system, painting, door replacement and stage lighting and control upgrades also are planned. A facelift is planned for the media center.

Sylvan Hills Elementary

Repairs to Sylvan Hills Elementary will total $243,000, including media center roof replacement or repair door replacement, exterior painting, refurbishing or replacing outside awnings.

Oakbrooke Elementary

Hallway paint and flooring updating was completed during the spring, carpet and flashing are complete or under way. Bathroom renovations are expected to cost $20,000.

Sherwood Elementary

Drainage work will be done near the media center and bathrooms in the media center will be made handicapped-accessible.