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Archive for Tuesday, June 26, 2007

District learned lessons from first South opening

New building to be ready for school year’s beginning, facilities administrators say

Tom Bracciano, the Lawrence School District's operations and facilities director, leads a tour of South Junior High School. With August nearing, school officials are preparing plans just in case the school can't open in time for the fall semester.

Tom Bracciano, the Lawrence School District's operations and facilities director, leads a tour of South Junior High School. With August nearing, school officials are preparing plans just in case the school can't open in time for the fall semester.

June 26, 2007

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Three questions with ... Tom Bracciano, director of operations and facility planning for Lawrence public schools

Tom Braccian talks about progress on construction at the new South Junior High, which the contractor is racing to complete before school starts in Aug

Lawrence public school administrators don't expect to repeat history with South Junior High School, 2734 La.

When the school originally was constructed in 1968, work ran behind schedule, and for seven months students attended classes in McAllaster Elementary School and portable classrooms. McAllaster, which was at 15th Street and Barker Avenue, has since been torn down.

And now, as the Lawrence district's contractor works on a new $31.9 million, 114,000-square-foot South Junior High building, the clock is ticking.

About 50 days remain before the start of school, and administrators say they're confident classrooms will be ready on time.

"They can do a whole heck of a lot in a month and a half," said Tom Bracciano, the school district's operations and facilities director. "It'll go, and has gone, pretty quick."

The new school, which is northeast of the old one, will replace a building that district leaders said had become antiquated. Asbestos removal now is under way in the old building.

On Monday, Bracciano and architect Robert G. del Popolo, of DLR Group in Overland Park, led a tour through the new South building, which now has a roof and is being built in five sections or blocks - all in a straight line, in contrast to the round building it's replacing.

Starting in the north, the first four blocks include most classrooms, the main entrance, cafeteria, commons area, kitchen and offices. Bracciano said the district plans to have these four blocks ready for a teacher work day on Aug. 14 and the next day when seventh-graders start school.

"We have a long way to go, but we're making some good progress," Bracciano said.

Construction also is under way at the adjacent Broken Arrow School on a new cafeteria and office addition. The office space will not be complete by the start of school in August, Bracciano said.

At South, the fifth block - which will house the main gymnasium and locker rooms - also will not be finished in August, and the district has arranged to have physical education classes outside and volleyball practice at another school.

On Monday, the new South was hopping with construction crews, representing many different trades, all in a rush to finish the interior and several exterior walls on the east side.

Several classrooms have painted walls and cabinets installed. Furniture from the old South is in storage, ready to move in later.

"We've got the roof on, so now it's just a matter of getting materials on site and getting them put in," Bracciano said as he stood in a second-floor science classroom that faces east, toward Haskell Indian Nations University.

District officials don't want a replay of 1968, when contractors ran behind constructing the old South. School board members became increasingly frustrated as the move-in date was repeatedly pushed back, according to Lawrence Daily Journal-World articles.

Students finally moved into the building on March 19, 1969 - seven months late.

Bracciano said administrators have no current plan to move South students elsewhere for classes because they remain confident construction crews will finish on time.

"At this point, it'd have to be really something totally unforeseen," he said.

The district also has a recent history of hustling before the first day of school to lay sod or rush in furniture to newly constructed schools, such as for the openings of Quail Run, Sunflower and Langston Hughes schools, Bracciano said.

At the old South, crews hope to finish asbestos removal by late July and then tear down the old building to make way for a parking lot. That parking lot and landscaping around the new South will not be completed by the first day of school.

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