By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
After a rainy spring that stalled construction for days, work on Joplin’s newest schools has gotten back on track, according to Mike Johnson, director of construction for the Joplin School District.
“We had an excellent winter, and we had a very bad spring,” he said. “Since summer hit, we have been back to not losing any days (to inclement weather).”
Progress continues steadily at the district’s three construction sites, with East Middle School, and Irving and Soaring Heights elementary schools on target for December completion as scheduled.
Spring rains had the most negative impact on the work schedule at the high school, which is not as far along as the other three schools. Because the school doesn’t yet have a roof, rains halted all work at the site for several days during the spring, Superintendent C.J. Huff said.
The district is still targeting an August 2014 completion date for the high school, which is combined with Franklin Technology Center.
“We feel good about the schedule right now, but we’re cautiously optimistic about the schedule at the high school at this point,” Huff said. “We do have a long ways to go, and a lot can happen between now and then.”
Meanwhile at the high school site, work continues on the stormwater drainage system along Grand Avenue, Johnson said. Crews are expected to start framing the central core of the school this week, and they will continue to put in footings and foundations for the gymnasium, he said.
“We will start seeing some activity coming up out of the ground there soon,” he said. “We hope to move over to that area in a few weeks and start erecting steel in the gym.”
Crews are currently working to finish the exterior of Irving Elementary School, which will house students from Irving and Emerson schools at its McClelland Boulevard campus.
“The roof is going on, the masonry is finishing up and the windows are going in,” Johnson said.
He said workers are completing walls and mechanical areas inside the two-story wing for the second through fifth grades, and putting up wallboard in the single-story wing for kindergarten and first-grade classrooms. They are also preparing to begin outdoor projects, such as sidewalks, parking lots and curbs, he said.
Progress at East Middle School and Soaring Heights Elementary School, for students from Duenweg and Duquesne schools, is advancing similarly at the schools’ campus on East 20th Street.
“We’re nearing completion of masonry on the middle school. The roofs and rooftop equipment have been installed, and we’re beginning to put windows in the middle school,” Johnson said. “In the elementary school, we’re getting the roof on it, the exterior walls have gone up, and they’re framing out the interior walls.”
Construction crews have put in a walking path and street lights. They’re getting ready to start on parking lots and sidewalks, he said. They have also seeded the schools’ sports fields, he said.
Crews are also prepping for the construction of safe rooms — in the form of gymnasiums — at Eastmorland, Stapleton, Cecil Floyd and McKinley elementary schools as well as a safe room at Junge Field. The stadium will serve as the headquarters for Nabholz Construction Services, the project’s construction manager, Johnson said.
“If you drive around those sites, you’ll see construction fencing and signage,” he said. “Building permits are being issued.”
Johnson said the pre-cast concrete components for the safe rooms are being manufactured and are expected to be delivered in about four months. In the meantime, crews will complete on-site work, such as installing utilities and putting in sidewalks and curbs, he said.
The safe rooms are the first five to be built as part of a project that will put storm shelters in Joplin schools. Plans for safe rooms at the remaining schools are under way and are projected to be in place by next spring.
“That’s our goal — to have as many of these ready as humanly possible for the next tornado season,” Johnson said.
Huff said the safe rooms will be open to the community during inclement weather. The protocol — whether a handful of individuals will be given keys to the safe rooms, for example, or whether the rooms will be equipped with a locking mechanism that can be opened remotely — is still being determined, he said.
Construction crews also are working at South Middle School to expand the parking lot, said Mike Johnson, director of construction for the Joplin School District.