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Stevensville Schools facing challenges with construction, COVID

Stevensville Schools facing challenges with construction, COVID

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Classes started on Sept. 13 for Stevensville Schools and although the construction is not complete, education is underway.

Superintendent Bob Moore, Ed.D., said Quality Construction, the school’s general contractor, is making excellent progress but with supply-chain delays projects are challenging.

“We can’t get plastic products, especially low voltage wires and toilet partitions, we’ve just adapted and made it work,” he said. “There are supply-chain items and subcontractors with possible COVID cases but we’re going with the flow.”

Sprinkler systems, fire panels, smoke detectors and wireless access points are installed. Adding low voltage wiring is ongoing for technology systems, communications, intercom, phones, computers, internet switches and hubs.

“We’ve done a complete fix of that system,” Moore said. “We contracted that independently because a substantial part of that was done in the middle school, which was not in the bond. Since we put it in years ago, fiber has gone through substantial upgrades. So, upgrades to the network backbone will be a huge improvement for the school district.”

The elementary school K-3 building still has a few cosmetic fixes but has special education rooms, a teacher room, new ceiling tiles, new restrooms, complete re-wiring, new intercoms, bells, clocks and new windows. The larger classrooms have new carpet, paint, heat units and fully adjustable LED lights. The south entrance with a full-size mural of familiar mountains and new office is near completion.

High school classes are still being shuffled around as construction moves from room to room. Flooring is scheduled to be put in during the four-day school break on Oct. 21-24. The district office is in use with a conference room and still needs a few finishing touches.

“We hope to be in the gym spaces and locker room spaces very soon,” Moore said. “We’ve been playing volleyball games in the elementary gym.”

A section of the roof of the gym is being torn off and reinstalled to stop a leak. Classes are being held in the CTE Center and the school added another educator in that area. The greenhouse has been delivered and the slab will be poured for it in December. The east entrance to the high school, the student commons area, and the library are still in process but will be beautiful with the original 1950 Fir beams, open areas and large windows.

The high school has new lockers, a science lab, special education area, new restrooms, collaborative placements of similar classrooms, and an integration of computer technology, construction trades and light industry. Welding booths are soon to be added. When the office moves to the east the north end of the building the classrooms it now occupies will be remodeled.

“At that point, we’ll be into the last of December, early January,” Moore said. “We had to move students in and are moving around them with cosmetic fixes. Everybody has cooperated and it has gone well.”

The parking lots are complete for a substantial expansion including for events at the high school and the new gymnasium entrance that is near completion. Parking for the elementary school is on the south side of the building and the entrance is nearing completion. Students can go from the elementary entrance to the middle school building while staying inside. High school parking has moved to the east of the high school, the K-8 drop-off will be moved to the south end of the elementary school and the bus loop will be for busses only.

“We’ve distributed the traffic out into three areas that will take care of a lot of the congestion,” Moore said.

There has not been an open house as construction is still underway. A back-to-school night was held in the middle school, but the school is waiting to hold an open house for K-3, 9-12 and the gymnasium until construction is complete.

“It’s going to be a vast improvement,” Moore said. “The students are really excited. It is for the students and the community. This building will be here long after myself and current teachers, school board and school employees. This is a community structure and something that will serve the community for years to come. It was greatly needed, definitely overdue and something Stevensville can be proud of.”

Moore has been in education for 36 years, seven years at SSD, and said he never thought he would see the environment that education has had to operate in for the last 18 months. Stevensville Schools students and staff experienced an additional challenge with the ongoing construction projects.

“Without the cooperation of the community and our staff we would not have been able to pull this off,” Moore said. “The school teaching and classified staff have truly been stretched to the limit and have adapted and adjusted every time we asked. They’ve done an excellent job of teaching the students in any environment, online or in person, and I have nothing but praise, they have done an exceptional job.”

Moore said the school is doing contact tracing for COVID because they want families to know.

“We want families to have information so they can make decisions for their children based on information provided,” Moore said. “There’s not a quarantine requirement. Some people are choosing to quarantine, some do wear masks, some don’t, that’s what the legislature has done. We’re in the information business.”

He said the opportunity for keeping students in small cohorts is limited due to limited space and construction.

“In grades K-5 those classrooms are pretty self-contained although we do move students around,” Moore said. “Our nursing staff is here and if we get a positive case, we’re sending notices. When you get up to middle school and high school then you’re sending notices to a grade level.”

He praised school nurses, Connie Johnson and Lindsay Gross.

“They are doing a sensational job,” Moore said. “We’ve had some staffing issues, especially in maintenance and custodial staff, not all COVID. We’ve rearranged schedules and assignments. With some illness in the kitchen board members and administrators have pitched in this week serving meals. We’re doing whatever we need to do to keep the school open and keep moving forward.”


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