No delay seen for West Elementary
Volunteers sought to help staff move items to classrooms after schedule slip on remodel work

       It's going to be close, and a little help would be appreciated, but it looks as if West Elementary will open on time.

Moving-company workers carry furniture into the West building this week. School staffers are requesting help in getting such items to the right classrooms before school starts Aug. 18.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “I think it's a big go for Aug. 18 [the scheduled first day of the semester],” said Terry Martinez, the new school's first principal, after a meeting Aug. 5 that included himself, West Middle School Principal Clay Gomez, District 11 Superintendent Nick Gledich and representatives of project contractor Colarelli Construction.

Numerous computers, desks, chairs and other school items, which have been stored in the West Middle School gym for the summer while the remodeling project occurred, wait to be put in their proper locations for the coming 2009-10 school year..
Westside Pioneer photo

       The result of the meeting was a plan in which Colarelli is beefing up its crews and working through this weekend and the district is committing extra employees too, according to Martinez. A rejected alternative was to postpone the start of school because of schedule concerns.
       The goal now is to have the major work done by Monday, Aug. 10, at which time the front office and most classrooms should be ready to receive equipment, furniture and random items packed in storage boxes.
       That's where the “little help” comes in. “We're asking people to come see the school and help us get ready,” Martinez said. “Some of it will be 'take this here or take this there' - not heavy lifting, but just moving stuff. This will be the last push we need to make it happen.”
       The times will be from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Monday and Tuesday. Volunteers are asked to check in at the elementary school office, 25 N. 20th St.; or the middle school office, 1920 W. Pikes Peak Ave.
       West Elementary is a new D-11 school that has been created through extensive summer-long remodeling, mainly in the western half of the West Middle School building. It is meant to take in many of the students who used to attend the Washington, Whittier and Buena Vista schools, which D-11 closed.
       The middle school, which has had declining attendance in recent years, chiefly remains in the eastern half of the building.
       A large amount of equipment, furniture and supplies have been stored in the West gym over the summer, and additional materials were being delivered this week.
       The uncertainty about the school's opening date had stemmed from what was perceived, until this week, as a slow pace by the contractor. The original schedule had called for completion by Aug. 1 - and even that date was tight, considering the amount of work required to turn empty spaces into fully equipped and functional classrooms, Martinez said.

In the office area of the Bijou School at Whittier, workers move furniture this week. The mural was by former Whittier art teacher Gary Cummings.
Westside Pioneer photo

       As it is, teachers in many cases will be setting up their rooms with construction crews working around them, he said. But they won't need hardhats because it should be minor work, posing no safety threats.
       One early plus for kids is that the new West Elementary playground, constructed where the middle school's unused tennis courts were, is ready for use.

The new marquee sign for Bijou School at Whittier.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Mike Maloney, D-11 facilities director, added his reassurance that all the Westside remodeling work - the Bijou School in the former Whittier building also has been a Colarelli project this summer - would be done in time for Aug. 18. “The buildings will be safe and ready for kids,” he said this week, despite a “very, very tight schedule.” Some minor work will likely carry over into the school year, but nothing that will disrupt the educational process, he said.
       Projects that will not be finished yet - by design - are the additions at Jackson and Howbert elementaries to handle additional students from Pike and Whittier, respectively. The goal in both cases is to have the foundations poured before school starts to avoid major distractions to students. The additions are scheduled for completion in time for the second semester starting in January.

Westside Pioneer article