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Tuscarora delays first day of school until September 8

August 21, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, PA.

"It's a bridge too far," said Rick Kerr of Tuscarora School District's attempt to get three school buildings that are undergoing $20 million in renovations ready for classes for the Aug. 29 scheduled opening of the 2005-06 school year.

Kerr, business manager for the district, said classes instead will resume on Sept. 8, a week later than scheduled.

The summer phase of the work on all three buildings is scheduled for completion Aug. 25. Four days isn't enough time for teachers and school employees to get the buildings ready for classes Aug. 29.

"We've taken all of the furniture out of the two elementary schools to make it easier for the contractors over the summer," Kerr said.

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Contractors have been working on a nearly $12 million major renovation project at James Buchanan Middle School since March, with completion targeted for November.

The district also is spending $4 million each to modernize and expand Montgomery and Mountain View elementary schools. The work being done is similar in both buildings.

The big job is in the middle school. That building will increase in size by about 30 percent, Kerr said.

The work is adding the equivalent of 20 new classrooms to the building, and every existing room is undergoing some renovation.

The school will have new science and computer labs, a new library and a performing arts center. The gymnasium is getting new bleachers and a new hardwood floor. The auditorium will have new lighting, acoustic ceiling panels and seats.

The school is getting its first distance learning lab, and an elevator is being installed in the two-story building to meet American for Disabilities Act requirements.

The boiler in the 50-plus-year-old building is being replaced, lighting, windows and floors are being redone, and the building is getting air conditioning.

It also is getting new administration offices, and the main entrance is moving from the front of the building, facing Pa. 75, to the back, which faces a farm field.

Last spring, students were moved into four portable classrooms to make space available for the work.

District officials are aware of dust problems that surfaced in the middle school in April that affected a half-dozen students. Children with asthma and other breathing difficulties were particularly affected, Kerr said.

The school board came under fire from parents, two of whom pulled their children from class.

It was determined that the dust was raised after the asbestos tiles in the floors were removed and the adhesive sandblasted. The work left exposed porous concrete. Constant walking in the hallways by hundreds of students kicked up the dust.

The problem was taken care of with temporary carpeting, filters and negative air machines, along with constant monitoring of the air quality in the building.

The work and equipment to clean up the air in the building cost the school district about $130,000, Kerr said.

The work is being done in stages when students are in school. When one section is completed, students are moved into the new area and work begins on the space they vacated.

It's difficult undergoing major construction projects in schools when classes are in session, Schools Superintendent Thomas Stapleford has said.

Work on the two elementary schools is scheduled for completion early next year, Kerr said. They each are getting new classrooms, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, windows and lighting, among other renovations.

The days lost because of the delayed start of the school year will be made up by moving graduation from June 6 to 9, and eliminating four spring break days and one vacation day at Christmas, Kerr said.

"We'll have problems if we have a big snow year," he said.

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