Lawrence High School construction continues while schools are closed for COVID-19 pandemic

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

Lawrence High School, 1901 Louisiana St., is pictured on July 28, 2016.

Construction at Lawrence High School continued as usual Monday as students began learning from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Without students in the hallways of the large high school because of local and state health orders, the challenge of conducting construction during the school year has become less complicated, said Tony Barron, the school district’s executive director of facilities and operations.

The high school is currently undergoing a $46 million renovation, and it has been allowed to continue its construction progress despite a Douglas County “stay at home” order. A superseding state order began Monday and is scheduled to last until April 19. Prior to the orders, the state had closed K-12 school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Barron said both the county and state orders list construction as “essential” services, allowing the LHS project to continue while many businesses and organizations are closed to the public or shut down completely.

The multi-phase construction project is currently in its third phase, renovating the heart of the school, which includes the areas where math and social studies classrooms were housed. Barron previously told the Journal-World that the third phase was expected to be completed before the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. On Monday, Barron said that is still the case.

“Everything is still on target to meet projected deadlines,” he said in an email to the Journal-World.

Additionally, phase four is expected to begin after Memorial Day and is expected to last until the end of the fall 2020 semester. That phase includes improvements to the library, kitchen and commons area, as well as a renovation of the school’s west gym, Barron previously said.

In February, the school district finished the second phase of the project, opening a southeastern wing of the school, which runs along Louisiana Street. It now features a two-story corridor that connects what was originally an annex building with LHS’ main building.

The first phase, which was completed in the fall of 2019, featured the construction of the school’s new “innovation corridor.” The corridor includes full-size classrooms for visual arts, metals, woods, photography, journalism and other such programs. It also features small breakout spaces for students to do schoolwork, among other modern renovations.

However, completion of the first phase of the project was delayed because of the discovery of additional asbestos in the school and issues from severe weather, including electrical complications associated with the May 2019 tornado. The delays caused the school district to push back the start of the current school year for both high schools by six days.

The delays also caused construction for phases two and three to be pushed back. Originally, phase two was expected to be finished by the end of the fall semester and phase three was expected to be completed before the end of the spring semester.

Despite the delay of the first phase, Barron said the overall project is still expected to be completed by August 2021.

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What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

For updated information on the outbreak, Kansas residents can email or call 866-534-3463 (866-KDHEINF), which is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.

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