Have Powers construction questions? We have answers

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com

With the construction of a new Powers Elementary School on the horizon, an unbelievable amount of planning is going on behind the scenes in the Amherst district.

“Folks are excited and everyone’s pitching in and doing their part,” superintendent Steven Sayers told the board of education on Monday, talking about the immense effort underway.

Here’s a list of important points to help our readers keep track of and brace for big changes (and to answer a lot of questions thrown our way in the last couple of weeks):

• The new school will be built where Harris Elementary stands today. Once finished, it will house prekindergarten through third grade.

• A “visioning” meeting was held in April. Teachers, custodians, parents, Amherst building inspector David Macartney, and a representative from the fire department all pitched in, comparing ideas for what features need to be included in the new school.

• The list will be taken into consideration as the building is designed. That process is expected to take the next seven or eight months.

• Architects from the GPD Group, which is designing the school, made themselves available to staff Monday and Tuesday at Steele High, asking for input.

• Harris and Shupe elementary schools must be vacated by July 1. That’s when the construction manager will take over the properties.

• There will be an abatement process before the schools are torn down, which is expected to happen in August. Typically abatement includes removing any previously-sealed asbestos or other harmful materials for proper disposal.

• Details for an online auction are being hammered out. The public will be able to bid on items from the soon-to-be-gone schools, likely sometime in the first week of June.

• Architects have already gone through Shupe, Harris, and the current Powers building, removing memorial plaques from the buildings and trees, as well as other historically important items.

• The plan, according to school board president Ron Yacabozzi, is to incorporate some of those pieces into the new Powers Elementary on North Lake Street.

• There are no known time capsules buried or stored away at either Harris or Shupe, according to officials. However, construction workers have been told to be watchful of hidden caches of memories that may be tucked into walls.

• As part of the demolition contract, one pallet of bricks will be salvaged from each building. They’ll be sold as keepsakes to raise money for the Amherst Schools Educational Foundation.

• Tied in with the funding for the new school is a big upgrade to heating and cooling systems at Nord Middle School. It will cost $1.2 million, which is about $250,000 less than had been expected. Work will be completed this summer by Bay Mechanical and Electrical of Lorain.

• A similar effort had been planned at Steele High School, but is delayed because a single bid of $2.9 million was made — and deemed too expensive by the board of education.

• The school district plans to undertake another $674,800 worth of projects this summer.

• At Steele, the main gym will get a new public address system ($10,000), new carpet will be laid in the main and guidance offices ($10,000), and a new football scoreboard will be installed ($65,000)

• At Amherst Junior High, the main office will get new carpet ($5,000), some tile will be replaced with carpet ($1,500), and new lockers will be installed ($15,000).

• At Nord, security fobs will be installed on outside doors ($12,000).

• At Powers, a keyless entry pad will be installed ($1,500).

• Other summer projects include moving items between schools as grades are moved around ($150,000), parking lot paving ($175,000), purchase of a transportation department metal cutter ($1,800), miscellaneous buildings and grounds work ($25,000), various technology purchases ($75,000), and school bus upgrades ($80,000). Another $48,000 has been set aside for contingencies.

• Powers principal Debbie Waller is retiring at the end of this school year. Harris principal Beth Schwartz will take over at Powers when her current building is razed.

• During the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, Powers will host prekindergarten through second grade before it’s torn down.

• Nord Middle School will be home to about 730 students this fall in grades three to five. Modular classrooms will be moved from Harris Elementary to Nord to accommodate kids. More than 750 children attended classes at Nord in the late 1990s and early 2000s, leading to the construction of Amherst Junior High to alleviate crowding.

• Amherst Junior High School will get grades six to eight, not just for the next two years but even after the new PK-3 school opens next door.

• Parents have been treated in the last couple of weeks to special “transition night” events to explain how the construction schedule will affect pick-up and drop-off procedures, schedules, and other day-to-day details.

• Start and end times are expected to remain exactly the same for each building next school year.

• Icon Construction of Mayfield Heights has been hired to build the new Powers school on North Lake Street.

• It’s expected to cost around $32 million. The state has pledged $14 million toward construction. The board of education refinanced some of its debt to help pay for a portion. And voters chose in November to re-up a bond issue that had originally been passed to pay for Amherst Junior High.

• That means the new PK-3 school will be built without increasing taxes (though property owners will pay them for a much longer period).

• Move-in day is expected to be sometime in July 2019.

• Once the new Powers building opens, there won’t be need to use modular classrooms (outdoor trailers) anywhere in the district.

Sayers said the next two years will be tough. The district is asking public for patience and the pay-off will be a brand new elementary school.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk