With the start of the new school year nine weeks away, the completion of South Junior High is on a tight schedule.
Heavy rains have delayed construction, but Lawrence school district officials hope a 24-hour on-site security presence will prevent further setbacks by thieves or vandals.
"Things can be damaged by vandals, so the investment in a security guard is money well spent in the long run," said school Superintendent Randy Weseman. "On construction sites, you can't lock everything up ... so things can disappear."
Weseman and Tom Bracciano, the school district's operations and facilities director, said that during a break-in two weeks ago a Mil-Spec Security guard prevented what could have been a much worse incident. The thieves, who got away, made off only with a digital camera and a cell phone holster.
This is not the first time the district has stepped up security during a construction project. A firm was hired when Southwest Junior High School and Sunflower School were built in the mid-1990s, Weseman said.
The approximately $15,000 it will cost to keep the buildings secure during the summer is split between the building's contractor, Ferrell Construction, and the school district.
Mil-Spec Security, a local firm, also was used to monitor Langston Hughes School when vandals struck the school four years ago, Bracciano said. The school later installed closed-circuit cameras, and others in the district followed suit.
"For us, it's a deterrent," Bracciano said. "People see security out there and they know to leave stuff alone."
The potential savings to the school district by having a security presence on the $24 million project is immeasurable, Bracciano said.
"I don't think you can put a price on that," he said. "We're on such a tight schedule that we don't want to have to do anything twice."
Five portions of the building will be completed throughout the summer, Bracciano said.
"We'll be able to move into portions of it as we go," he said. "Our plan is to have four blocks done by the 14th (of August)."
A teacher workday is slated for Aug. 14, and seventh-graders are scheduled to attend classes the next day.
The fifth and final block of construction at South, which will house the school's gymnasium, most likely will not be complete by the first day of school, Bracciano said.