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School construction is ahead of schedule

Construction on McDuffie County's new school continues on schedule as officials work to iron out details before the big day arrives.

At the October Board of Education planning session, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Jim Franklin gave an update on the construction project, Superintendent Mark Petersen discussed results of an online survey to name the school and a proposal was made to renovate the exterior of the Usry house in front of the school.

"The absence of rain is assisting us in getting the construction project where it is," Dr. Franklin said. "Of course, we need the rain, but it is helping keep our project on schedule."

Dr. Franklin said 90 percent of the metal roofing and 80 percent of the block work is completed and the eaves are in the process of being framed. Primer paint has been applied, colors have been chosen for bleachers and lockers, and bids are being accepted for the painting.

"Overall, the school is moving along quite well," the assistant superintendent said. "We are a week or so ahead of schedule at this time. But you never can tell about construction."

While rain has not slowed down the project, the absence of water has. According to Dr. Franklin, issues relative to the upcoming highway by-pass and the Department of Transportation have interfered with the installation of water pipes and fire hydrant locations. Dr. Franklin said water had to be hauled to the site and stored in a container.

"The absence of water has been a critical problem," Dr. Franklin said in a telephone interview. "But we expect the water to be available with the next week or 10 days."

The new school building will house eighth and ninth grades with four wings around an octagon-shaped center having the capacity for 850 pupils. The project is overseen by Architect Greg Smith of Buckley and Associates and is funded by the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax IV.

Norris Elementary Principal Steve Rhodes was appointed principal of the new school in the early planning stages so a principal would be available to offer input on the building's design. Dr. Franklin said construction is contracted to be complete by the first of July, and will be open for use for the 2007-08 school year.

A committee, consisting of BOE members Georgia Hobbs, Paul Leroy and Ella Mae Samuels, Dr. Petersen and Mr. Rhodes will meet to select a name for the school and make a recommendation to the board at the November meeting. The committee will consider suggestions from a survey on the school system's website.

Meanwhile, improvements will begin soon on the exterior of the Usry House on White Oak Road. At the October regular meeting, the school board unanimously approved a bid from Arrington Construction for just under $40,000 to brick the house to match the new school.

"As it is now, it will look out of place with the new school right behind it," Dr. Franklin said.

The house is owned by the school system and is leased to Partners For Success as their offices. ESPLOST funds will be used for the improvements, and no work is needed on the interior of the building. The vote was approved without incident. Virginia Bradshaw (District 5) and Paul Leroy (District 2) were not present at the regular meeting and did not vote.

Web posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007

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