Chalk dust mingled with sawdust at four Maumee school buildings yesterday as students swarmed into the midst of ongoing construction for their first day of school.
The Maumee City School District this summer began $45.7 million in construction projects. Crews are working on a new performing arts center at Maumee High School, additions to Fairfield and Wayne Trail elementary schools, and a variety of renovations at the high school and Gateway Middle School.
"We've tried to keep the construction and the students apart," Gateway Principal Christopher Conroy said. "It's a little dusty, a little dirty, but people are adapting."
Most of the renovations at the two elementary schools are going on outside the existing buildings as workers put up the framework for additions that will include new classrooms. As classrooms are finished this winter, some classes will move into the new space. But for now, students are largely unaffected by the construction.
Joy Hodak, principal at Fairfield elementary, said many rooms in the school were renovated over the summer.
"The parents this morning were just oohing and aahing," she said. "The lighting alone has just opened up the school. The vibrant colors they used are great too."
Students and staff at Gateway and the high school have more indoor construction with which to contend. From exposed pipes running along hallway ceilings to naked flooring stripped of its linoleum, those buildings are clearly a work in progress.
Several steps have been taken to minimize the impact of construction on students. Crews built temporary walls to hide
heavy construction areas and moved students into temporary classrooms while certain areas are being renovated. The high school put up partitions to create temporary classrooms in the building's small gym, and Gateway has a similar setup in the school auditorium.
Staci Leach, a freshman English teacher, is teaching in one of the high school's six temporary classrooms.
She said it was a challenge to get organized in the new space, but the temporary classroom is bigger than the room she had last year.
"There's a feeling of camaraderie in our area because we're all in this together," she said. "There's some excitement and fun."
Fire officials and building inspectors from the city of Maumee went through all the school buildings last week to check that conditions were safe.
Doug Mold, a construction consultant with Bostleman Corp., said workers took a lot of time making sure the buildings were clean and safe for the start of school.
"The top priority for the construction team when school started was the safety of the students," Mr. Mold said. "It's a safe environment."
Construction at Gateway and the high school is scheduled to continue until the projects are completed at the end of 2005. Construction will slow down while school is in session, but crews will keep working this school year on renovating classrooms, building science labs, and adding a media center at the high school, and renovating classrooms and building additions for a cafeteria, administrative offices, and athletic facilities at Gateway.
As some areas of the buildings are finished, classes will be rotated in and out of temporary classrooms and move to different parts of buildings. Some students arrived yesterday to find their classrooms located in unexpected spots.
"I heard one student say, 'I'm an eighth grader and I'm lost in my own building,'●" Mr. Conroy said.
The construction projects, except for the performing arts center, are being funded by a bond issue and operating levy approved by voters in May, 2003. The measures will raise $42 million. The $3.7 million performing arts center will be paid for by private donations and the district's sale of Rolf Park to the city of Maumee.
"The attitude of both the students and staff was very positive on the first day," Larry Caffro, high school principal, said. "We know there will be times when the noise will interfere. There will be times when our students will be displaced.
"Everyone is focusing on the end result instead of the inconvenience right now."
Contact Rachel Zinn at: