This is it, folks.
Two years of planning are coming together and construction is expected to start this month on the new Powers Elementary School on South Lake Street.
A nearly $1.2 million site package was approved Monday by the Amherst board of education. It will pay for preparation of the land where Harris Elementary School used to stand, including soil stabilization, underground utility work, and creation of a water retention area.
That job was awarded to Herk Excavating of Vermilion. Preliminary work should start this week.
As a result, Lake Street access to the site will be closed immediately after spring break, which means Amherst Junior High School parents will no longer be able to drop off or pick up their kids at the old Harris entrance. Nor will neighbors be able to park their cars there.
Next on the punch list is bidding and awarding of the main building construction, which more than likely will happen in April.
The entire plan is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $32 million.
Experts say construction costs are skyrocketing right now. In November, about $1 billion in school construction issues were passed across the region, so contractors will have more muscle when it comes to dictating prices. At the same time, hurricanes and President Donald Trump’s recently announced steel tariffs are pushing up construction costs everywhere.
Amherst superintendent Steven Sayers said he is wary of higher costs but the board has prepared for them.
In addition to the standard two to three percent contingency funding worked into construction plans, the Amherst school board has set aside another 10 percent for the Powers project, just to be safe.
Architect Aaron Rodebaugh of GPD Group shared new images Monday of the interior of the new school.
The mock-ups show the designers’ emphasis on community spaces, including a cafeteria with a well-lit stage. That area has a moveable wall that can open into the gymnasium, allowing expanded seating during concerts and other big events.
The renderings also show GPD incorporated large windows into the building’s design to provide a lot of natural light.
Sayers said he hopes to have a formal groundbreaking ceremony in May. Construction will last through August 2019.
Demolition of the existing Powers Elementary on Washington Street will happen from June to August of 2019.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.