At the Stevensville schools campus, where there once was an open space filled with grass and playground equipment, there is rubble.
But that is OK with school officials and the construction teams that created the mess because, a year from now, they will be putting the finishing touches on two new buildings.
In the meantime, project manager Paul Bishop, a building consultant from Construction Solutions, said the building work is progressing well in the run-up to the start of a 2010 school year that will be squeezed into a calendar that will be 20 days shorter due to construction.
Work on the first phase of the grades 4-8 building is nearly complete, Bishop said, as foundation work wrapped up last week and below-grade electrical lines and plumbing will be in place this week. Portions of the slab floor will be poured as soon as that work is done, Bishop said.
Phase one, $907,000 in contracts, went exclusively to local construction companies, Bishop said. Phase two, frame-up, close-in and finishing work, was bid on by companies from around the state, with six contracts worth more than $1 million going to Ravalli County businesses.
Work on phase two will begin soon.
At over an acre, the building's footprint covers a large enough area that work framing walls can begin once the first areas of floor have set up and while the concrete crews are finishing the floor in other areas.
"It's spread out and big," Bishop said. "The slab guys can chase the electrical and plumbing guys around."
Last year, after hearing of safety concerns about old buildings on the school's campus, the voters of Stevensville passed an $8.8 million construction bond for the grades 4-8 building though voters in the elementary school district rejected a bond for a building to house music and a multipurpose room. Luckily, an $860,000 grant from the state of Montana will cover most of the elementary district's portion of the multipurpose and music building.
Officials then secured a zero-interest loan that was structured in such a way as to let the district make a balloon payment, an arrangement that should save tax payers nearly $2 million.
There have been weekly informational meetings that are open to the public regarding the project since last spring. So far, Bishop said, no members of the general public have attended.
"I take that as good news," Bishop said. "No one ever shows up to say you're doing a great job."
With work on the new classroom building to coincide with the school year, that may change.
"That's fine with me," Bishop said. "We're going to need to get the public to latch onto this whole team process."
Bishop and Stevensville Superintendent Kent Kultgen said they were confident in the logistics of conducting school in four buildings with a major construction project in the middle.
Parking for staff has been moved to the northeast side of the main campus area, while student drop off areas have also shifted over to Phillips Street on the south side of the elementary gymnasium.
As for the pace of construction and spending, Bishop said he was very confident that the work would be completed on time and within the constraints of the budget.
"We have to," Kultgen said. "Our bond language is super specific about that and we did that to sell the project to the community."
Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.