Men in hard hats, students gearing up for campus upgrade

Subcontractors tour the gutted locker rooms at Dolores High School in preparation to bid on the remodeling project.

Construction of a major upgrade for the Dolores Schools campus is beginning to ramp up.

Fencing, construction equipment and men in hard hats will be swarming the site for the remainder of the school year and throughout the summer.

FCI Constructors will oversee the $5.2 million project that includes a new science and vocational-ag building, additional classrooms and locker-room remodeling.

Safety on campus is a priority, and regular meetings are being held with teachers, administrators, students and construction managers about the project.

"We have 800 people learning, walking to classes, going to lunch, playing at recess, so we have to be very careful," said Superintendent Scott Cooper. "It is a major construction zone, but we have organized the traffic flow so that everyone is safe and knows where to go."

Teachers and students are being told to obey all fences and signs and to stay alert. Crew members will be wearing high-visibility vests and hard hats. Anyone who is not will be questioned.

"We're excited to be moving forward and we are on-schedule," said Scott Klassen, FCI project manager.

Over Christmas Break all electrical lines were relocated, the first hurdle before major construction can begin.

At the end of January, drainage work and site preparation will be taking place on the elementary school to make way for major excavation work in February for the new classrooms. Cooper said the elementary additions won't quite be ready in time for Fall 2014, but the school is prepared to handle the situation.

Beginning Feb. 4, crews will move into the remodeling of the locker rooms, which are expected to be completed in time for graduation.

"It will be nice to show off the new locker rooms to parents, but it will be sad for the seniors because they never got to use them," Cooper said.

On Feb. 12, demolition will begin on the old vocational-agricultural building, and then truckloads of fill will be brought in to raise the grade to flood plain standards.

"We will be recycling as much as we can from the demolition project," Klassen said.

Foundations will be poured in early May for the new science/vocational-ag building, and then structural steel and concrete block installation can begin. The new facility will be ready for students beginning in Spring 2015.

There will also be a lot of drainage work on the campus throughout the project to make sure water and snow melt is controlled. It will also eliminate a low spot in the courtyard that collects water and freezes every year.

"That problem will finally be taken care of," Cooper said. "May and June will be really exciting when the new buildings start to go up."

A major construction zone is also a learning opportunity for students. Teachers are being asked to incorporate the project into lessons about construction careers, safety, engineering, architecture, and energy efficient buildings.

"Controlled tours for students of modern building construction and behind the scenes technology are planned," Cooper added.

Journalism students will document the project with photos, interviews with workers, and articles for the school newspaper.

Subcontractors are taking tours of the campus this week and are in the bidding process.

"Our goal is to go as local as we can within pricing capability and our budget limitations," Klassen said.

Final drawings and pricing bids for subcontractors are due Jan. 14. Engineers then review the plans and the bids are awarded.

"FCI is known for doing school projects, and they have an impeccable safety record," Cooper said. "The major workload will take place in the summer."

FCI project manager Scott Klassen leads a sub-contractor tour for the Dolores Schools building project. About 30 subcontractors took the tour to provide bids for the building project. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

FCI project manager Scott Klassen leads a sub-contractor tour for the Dolores Schools building project. About 30 subcontractors took the tour to provide bids for the building project.