Elementary#8217;s construction on schedule

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Dawson-Bryant Elementary school renovation is running right on schedule, according to Superintendent Jim Payne.

“We are on right on schedule to complete the project in the latter part of July, the first part of August,” Payne said. “All of the pieces have been fitting in the puzzle pretty well and we’ve had no surprises as of yet.”

At the beginning of the school year, students get to be the first classes in the new elementary school.

Email newsletter signup

Part of the old school was torn down and three playgrounds are being built on that property and the remaining part of the old school is being renovated.

The new school has bigger classrooms with nearly 900 feet of space and a gymnasium the same size as the high school’s.

The whole project adds more parking and separate drop off spots for kids who ride the bus and those dropped off by a parent.

Among the things being completed now is the compacting of the the soil to make a more solid base for the parking lots.

“What we are concerned about, we are going to have heavy traffic with buses and we want to make sure that it withstands the poundage that is required,” Payne said. “So we want to make sure that everything is up to state specifications.”

The wet weather hasn’t had too much of an effect on the project because in this phase, crews are working on things like paving and striping the parking lots, putting in shrubs and trees and installing fences on the playgrounds.

“Those kind of things are going to have to be done when students and staff are no longer at the building,” Payne said. “We have too much activity right now to get that accomplished.”

That’s especially true next week when the school begins state testing.

“We want to make sure the students are not distracted,” Payne said. “And the construction companies have been really cooperative to try to understand when we have certain times of the year when we have things like testing.”

The $14 million elementary school project was approved to be built by the state five years ago, but an increase in construction costs and materials because of rising gas prices and Hurricane Katrina strained the budget.

“The cost of everything nearly doubled,” Dawson Bryant Elementary Principal Eric Holmes said in a recent interview. “So we had to go back and ask for more money.”

One of the things Payne and other employees in the school district are proud of is that whole project was funded locally so there was no tax increase for residents in the district.

“The board of education was very adamant that if we had to (have a tax increase) we weren’t going to go ahead with the project,” Payne said.

With a high school renovation and the elementary construction, the cost is estimated at $19.5 million.

“We went to the state and basically pleaded our case. It fit in their scenario so … the local share cost was something we could handle,” Payne said. “We decided to fund it ourselves rather than go to the voters and ask for money.”