Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

June 27, 2013

Short season sparks construction concerns

By Dustin Luca

---- — While students and teachers may be frustrated by the shortened summer vacation, town officials are clamoring to squeeze a season full of school construction into an eight-week window.

Because of the condensed season, two of the town’s largest summer projects have already started knocking out advance work that wouldn’t interfere with classrooms full of students, according to Ed Ataide, maintenance superintendent with the town’s Plant and Facilities Department.

At West Middle School, basement and boiler room work is already under way to install a new $1.25 million heating system approved at Annual Town Meeting this year, Ataide said.

Meanwhile, 11 trees around Doherty Middle School have been tagged and are slated for removal in advance of the $2.5 million paving project surrounding that school this summer, he said.

“We don’t have the option to start it once school stops, so we’re starting it this week,” Ataide said.

The work is all “stuff that isn’t going to impact the school, but gives us a jump on the project,” he said.

Also affected by the shortened season is the traditional summer maintenance work in every school, according to Ataide.

Much of the work needs to be done in enough time to allow staff to ready their classrooms for students’ return.

“We’ve got to build some walls in some of the classrooms. We’ve got flooring to replace, expand rooms, that type of stuff,” he said. “We’ll confine them all within the summer. All of these types of projects we do with our in-house staff. If it doesn’t finish, we just keep working it.”

While much of the work on Doherty Middle School is scheduled to line up with the construction of the Cormier Family Youth Center, that project isn’t facing any scheduling issues from the shortened summer break, according to Chris Huntress, chairman of the youth center’s building committee.

“We weren’t anticipating construction to start until September anyway, and we knew it was going to be a year-long process,” he said. “So we’re working around an active school regardless.”

Another facility upgrade taking place this summer that isn’t affected by the shortened season is the replacement of the high school’s tennis courts, Huntress said. This year’s Annual Town Meeting approved $400,000 for the project.

“Tennis is a spring sport and we can offset the completion schedule into the fall a little bit,” said Huntress, whose company is the architect on the project.

That should have a benefit on the cost, Huntress said. Since most school construction work must fit inside a June 1 to Aug. 15 window, contractors often demand a premium for projects within that time frame, he said. That won’t be the case for the tennis courts, which will see fence work and other aspects of the project continuing into the fall.

Bids for construction of the courts are due by July 11.