By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
There is a lot of activity under way at the Joplin High School construction site.
Fencing around the Hope High School sign has been moved back, opening up the sign to visitors for the remainder of the month. Even more noticeable are the dirt piles directly behind the sign, appearing over the past week on the property.
“If anyone has driven past the high school recently, they’ve seen the mile-high piles of dirt that are real close to that sign,” said Randy Steele, president of the Board of Education. “We feel that the sign needs to come down before it gets damaged.”
The large piles of dirt near 20th Street and Indiana Avenue — and the Hope High School sign — are the result of a large hole that has been dug on the property’s northern end that will essentially act as a sediment basin for stormwater runoff, as required on construction sites by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said Mike Johnson, the district’s construction director.
Johnson said the runoff pond and piles of dirt will likely remain until late winter 2014, at which point he hopes to have the site ready for grass and seed plantings in the spring. The school is scheduled to open in late summer of that year.
Johnson said the sign currently is safe and in no danger from the dirt piles — but that might not always be the case.
“Now when it comes time to push that dirt back in that hole and clean all that up, it’ll be almost impossible to do that with that (sign) sitting there,” he said.
When contacted by the Globe earlier this week, Steele reiterated the board’s commitment to moving the sign from the intersection, citing the fact that work on the construction site will occur across the entire property, as evidenced by the runoff pond and dirt piles.
“We don’t want something to happen during construction,” he said. “Right now our best bet is to take it down and store it.”
When the Board of Education agreed at its September meeting to proceed with moving the sign, some board members questioned whether there were any plans to redesign, realign or widen the intersection of 20th Street and Indiana Avenue that would necessitate the sign’s removal. Lynn Onstot, spokeswoman for the city of Joplin, said there are currently no plans related to that intersection.
Bids for moving the sign were scheduled to go out sometime this month. The board has not yet decided where the sign will go once it’s taken down.
“We know that it’s symbolic to people in a lot of different ways,” Steele said, acknowledging that he has gotten several phone calls from concerned residents, each with his or her own opinion of what should be done. “We’re taking our time to make sure that where it ends up going is the right place.”
The large rock and flag, remnants of the high school’s Rose Garden that for months had been left in their original location along Indiana Avenue, have also been moved. The flag has been put away to prevent its theft, while the rock is temporarily located on the southern end of the property near 24th Street and Grand Avenue.
Randy Steele, president of the Joplin Board of Education, said the rock will be placed somewhere in the new high school, but still to be determined is whether that will be in a newly built Rose Garden or elsewhere. “It’s definitely going back on the property,” he said.