BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – The roof is on, the walls are up and construction continues to plug away as Holy Trinity Catholic closes in on a July 4 deadline to have it’s $6 million new elementary school completed.
HTC Principal Michael Sheerin said the project is right on budget even with a couple change orders to better serve students.
Construction crews crawled around the facility Thursday afternoon, installing ceiling tiles and sealing dry wall joints as the two floors begin to show the shape of what is to come this summer.
“There are still estimating the end of May for the building construction, however the flooring and the furnishings will be in place by the end of June,” Sheerin said.
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Holtkamp Floors Decor & Furniture in Fort Madison will be finishing the project as far as floors and most of the furnishings.
One of the main focuses of the classroom set up has been an open and collaborative structure. Sheerin said most of the classrooms are expandable to accommodate large group learning, while still being able to provide more focused individual learning.
The panels that separate classroom space are equipped with white boards, so when the panels are closed it provides additional learning equipment.
The rooms will also have 1 of 15 70″ Smart panel monitors that are completely integrated with each other. Sheerin said it adds the technology required of today’s teaching, while allowing an additional safety measure by permitting emergency messaging to all classrooms.
He said the school will also go to 1 gigabyte bandwidth between the systems schools.
“To put that into perspective we started here with a 34 megabyte bandwidth so you’ve gone from a 1-inch pipe to a 12″ pipe. We want to be at the front end instead of just continuing to upgrade,” Sheerin said.
The techonology was all part of the $6 million budgeted cost of the building.
Sheerin said there were a few early issues with water running down some ramps and there was a little panic with school still in session, but he said since everything’s been closed in there haven’t been any issues.
He said change orders have been minor, including some additional support for the smart panels that are being hung on the walls with hydraulic lifts, and some entry way changes.
“When you get into construction you start to look at the aesthetics and so I would say we have more changes than any snafus, so to speak,” he said.
Sheerin said the reason the changes have been minimal is that he, and other staff, have been doing background work on the new classrooms for the past three years.
“It’s kind of like education tends to look for clearance items. Everyone says, this is a huge cost to do something, but if we buy computers for 50 to 60% off, there’s a reason there on sale,” he said.
“They may be sufficient, but they’re not efficient and not progressive enough so you have a short term savings, but then you get rid of all that and buy all new. Education is the perfect Hines commercial because K-12 education is constant – catchup.”
But he said the system didn’t want to do that and invested in current upgradeable, and efficient technology.
The first floor will hold the K-3rd grade students, a new cafeteria and kitchen and some administrative and staff space and a small media centralized media center.
The upper floor holds classrooms for 4th – 6th grade students. With classrooms running down the east side of the building all but one of the classrooms is expandable. Sheerin said HTC teachers are looking at some programming where they can have six teachers in one room with 50 or 60 kids, but then close the expandable walls when needed to do more traditional style teaching.
He said not only is the project a win for students, teachers will also benefit from the new facility.
“You can put all the new technology in here you want, but it won’t mean a thing without the impact of our teachers,” Sheerin said.
“This isn’t your grandparents Buick anymore. That’s what we’re trying to be about. We want to move with the times and hold to traditional values with teaching, to some degree, but moving forward into the technology and personalized learning.”
HTC officials are hoping to set up public tours of the facility later in the summer and then have everything turnkey ready when teachers arrive for the first day of the 2019-20 school year.