An asbestos discovery in the mud and tape of the soffitt drywall in the elementary pod areas has put a complete halt to some facility improvement plans for the Van-Far R-I School District.
Van-Far Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hunter said Crawford Construction, who won the construction contractor bid that was approved on June 5 by the school board, did sample testing on June 8, one day before starting on work.
The results of the sample testing revealed the presence of asbestos in the mud of the drywall in the soffits that support the air ducts in each pod.
“That’s a huge deal,” Superintendent Dr. Hunter noted in a June 3 special meeting. “That wasn’t anticipated. It’s kind of a bummer.”
Superintendent Dr. Hunter noted that the issue isn’t a health risk as the area sits undisturbed. However, disturbing it for removal will require a special team.
Soffits will be removed as part of the construction project as they will no longer be used and are in the way of new hallways and walls. Due to the time needed to safely and properly remove the soffits, the timeline of completing Phase I became impossible to do this Summer to have classrooms ready for students in August.
Superintendent Dr. Hunter said no demolishing work had yet been done in the area. So the desks and tables that were removed from the pods will now have to be put back in the pods for the school year.
Meanwhile, more than 20,000 books have been moved out of the library. The plan is to now put down tile in the library area and eventually put the books back in so the library area will be ready to serve students in time for the next school year.
The construction work for the pod area will require bid restructuring with the abatements in February-March 2016. Construction in the pod areas will not take place until the Summer of 2016.
Superintendent Dr. Hunter said due to the bid process for asbestos removal, the time it takes to remove the asbestos, and the pod construction, there just wasn’t enough time to get the project done by the start or early portion of the school year. In a special meeting held last Wednesday night, architect Jon Berendzen (Porter, Berendzen & Associations), discussed the asbestos removal and estimated the cost ranging from $115,000-$200,000.
It was noted in the meeting that it is not a process that you can speed up. When looking at the possibility of holding the hole project until next year, board member Kevin Motley said he didn’t want to see students put in a house trailer for a whole school year.
“I don’t think the community cares how it gets done and what timeframe it gets done, they want it done,” Motley added.
Motley said the project will still be done just not in the timely manner the district wanted to be done. Motley suggested all of the other work still gets done. He felt bad for the staff who worked hard to get things ready for the school year.
It was noted that it is hard to put an official price tag on the asbestos issue without pulling out the rest of the area.
With the pod remodel being delayed, the board in that same meeting approved an amended construction contract with Crawford Construction for $777,700 for the early childhood addition.
All remaining phases of building construction, such as remodeling the Van-Far Elementary restrooms and installation of interior/exterior doors will continue and will be completed this Summer. The board voted on the measure in the meeting.
Parking lot bids will be reviewed as scheduled and may be done in phases to be completed as well by the start of this upcoming school year.
Board members also approved the additional cost of $7,000 for a Samsung brand HVAC system. Ryan Morris is certified for Samsung and will be able to service and update the system in-house.
“This project is one that we are all proud of,” Superintendent Dr. Hunter said. “It touches almost every classroom in the district and greatly improves our learning environment for students in the long run. Our two buildings were well built and have been well maintained as the decision makers before us did great work. Personally, I am proud of everyone in this endeavor, particularly our staff and school board. The staff has worked tirelessly on preparing for the anticipated move this Summer and my conversations with them have been ones of great disappointment, but understanding, of our need to shift the timeline. They have been wonderful in preparing for the move with sweat equity and have wonderful spirit in working with our new set of circumstances. The board has worked tirelessly on the many, many details of this project with an eye on what is best for our students in the next generation. I am most proud of the community support for the project. The results of the vote in April really showed that we are a community that wants the best we can provide for our students. It is a pleasure to live in and lead a district with such a wonderful team around us. Again, the components of the project are all in place, with sadly, a different order, but we are happy to begin work that you will begin to see soon.”
Reflecting back on the timeline
A Public Survey began the current vision last fall that was based on input received from a Facilities Team composed of Van-Far patrons. Based on the input, the Van-Far District identified an Early Childhood Facility, Parking lots, the Van-Far Elementary Pods, the Van-Far Elementary Exterior doors, and the Van-Far Junior-Senior High School interior doors as priorities to be addressed.
Following the initial items, the Board of Education reviewed many informational items. Some included were: On November 20, Brad Wegeman, CPA of LJ Hart and Associates presented a Preliminary Financial Analysis on General Obligation Bonds, Series 2015. On December 18, after reviewing Architectural bids, the district choose Porter, Berendzen & Associates as the architectural firm to head the design work and processes for any potential project. On January 15, feasibility, options and costs for a project were presented by Jay and Jon Berenzen and discussed. On January 22, a resolution was approved for a no-tax increase bond issue in the amount of $2,161,000. Finally in April, Proposition A Passed with 78% of the vote. On May 12, Brad Wegeman and Holly Murphy with LJ Hart provided information on the bond and a timeline. On June 9, due to the premium structure of the bonds, $2,229,230 was received for funding the project. Construction bids were opened June 3 and approved June 5 before the discovery of asbestos. Then came the decisions last week due to the asbestos to restructure the timeline.