Roger Born, Jim Kennaw, and Keith Hardwick, from left, of Thomas & Marker Construction Co. finish the sidewalk outside the middle school.
LIMA, Ohio - Overseeing a $116 million renovation and construction project takes good planning and some awful good luck too.
“I need to find some wood and knock on it,” said Ronnie Boedicker, coordinator of construction and operations for the Lima city schools. “It's going very well right now.”
With one school renovation and three new buildings nearing completion, Mr. Boedicker said the project is going surprisingly well. The mild winter helped tremendously.
“The weather has been most cooperative with our construction project, which is a good thing because we initially had some problems with permits that caused us to get started five to six weeks late,” he said. “We've made that up, and in some certain areas we're ahead of schedule.”
Through the Ohio School Facilities Commission, the state is picking up 89 percent of the cost of the project, which amounts to a complete overhaul of the district.
The nine elementary schools will be closed and replaced with four new buildings, and West Middle School will be renovated and converted to Heritage Elementary.
The other four - Freedom, Independence, Liberty, and Unity - got their patriotic names following a three-month process that included input from the community.
Unity, Freedom, and the new Lima West Middle School are now 75 percent complete, and the district expects to open them in the fall.
North Middle School, which is undergoing an extensive renovation, is about 85 percent done and also will be done by fall.
Mr. Boedicker said he hopes to see contractors breaking ground for the new Lima Senior High School and the new South Middle School by June 1.
Work on Heritage Elementary is to begin in July.
Despite strict guidelines from the state, the buildings are each taking on their own look and character. Mr. Boedicker said much of that has to do with advisory committees set up for each building which have input on everything from color scheme to design.
Freedom, for example, is one story with hallways that form a huge X. Unity, because of its location, is two stories.
“They each have a uniqueness unto themselves,” he said. “We had hoped that would come, but we didn't know.”
Throughout the work that began last spring, the staff and students at North Middle School have been inconvenienced the most. Because the district chose to undertake the school's renovation and hold classes in the building at the same time, it's been a challenging school year.
“We kind of thought that would be a big nightmare, and it certainly has been uncomfortable both for the students and the employees,” Mr. Boedicker said. “But what we anticipated might be a nightmare has been a very good learning experience.”
Assistant Principal Steven Carr said the worst part was during the fall when the new heating system was not operating and windows were boarded over in anticipation of new ones being installed. “A couple of days, it was kind of cool,” he said.
Being inside the building during the renovation means everyone gets to enjoy the new features as soon as they're completed.
“The new windows are beautiful. They have blinds inside the glass; they're very nice,” Mr. Carr said. “They're air-tight compared to the ones that were 30 years old. We have a new roof that doesn't leak. We have all new lights, so the rooms are a lot brighter than they used to be.”
By fall, the entire building will be carpeted, furnished, air-conditioned, and ready for students without a hammer or nail in sight.
Residents and alumni will get one last chance to visit the old schools at a Homecoming Celebration May 5.
The elementary schools will be open from 1 to 3 p.m., North and West middle schools and Lima Senior will be open from 2 to 4 p.m., and South Middle School, which is expected to have the most visitors because it was formerly a high school, will be open from 1 to 5 p.m.
Kevin Reeks, public relations director for the district, said balloons will be released from the front lawn at South at 4:30 p.m.
“It's a way for people to see one last time at the end of this school year how the district looks because at the beginning of next school year we'll begin to look different,” Mr. Reeks said. “It's also a way to say good-bye because South and Edison Elementary will be demolished this summer.”