Schools Renovation Slightly Ahead of Schedule
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
Copyright Clare County Cleaver
HARRISON – Harrison Community Schools Superintendent Rick Foote took some time last Thursday morning to give Cleaver readers a chance to check out some of the progress made thus far on the renovation work being done at Harrison High School and the Harrison Middle School.
The tour started with a quick look around the middle school, where much of the work is actually unseen: wiring, security and lighting upgrades. Much of the work is hiding behind walls and the new ceiling tiles. Work at the middle school began over spring break, so the much-needed wall top-to-ceiling closure has already been accomplished. On the tour, Foote pointed out that some of the carpet tile flooring had been laid down: a dark blue with a gold stripe in each square. He reminded that the carpet tiles will make it a simple matter to replace any portions that may become damaged than if large areas of carpet had to be pulled up.
The middle school office had been emptied of all furniture and the flooring ripped out, readying for the new entrance which will be part of the new security measures at the school. A similar secure entrance will be installed at the high school as well.
Moving on through the Media Center revealed plastic-protected book shelves and wide-open spaces – areas which will accommodate staging of materials to be used once the hard surfaces, plumbing, wiring and painting work are done.
Walking along the corridor which connects the Media Center to the high school, one can look out to where the parking lot used to be and get a sense of how complete the changes to the campus will be – from concrete to classrooms to cars. It was fortunate that much of the landscaping near the entrance to the middle school has thus far remained mostly untouched.
It is in the high school proper, however, where the true beehive of activity is happening. The area which had contained the open concept classrooms is now a single, vast space with the remaining brick clad pillars seeming to hold up the whole shebang. There also are lots of plumbing pipes sticking up from the floor where new bathrooms will be installed. Part of that work includes cutting floor concrete, which has resulted in patching, lots of floor sanding, and lots of concrete dust. The ceilings have all been taken out, leaving the steel girders supporting corrugated roofing. Areas can be seen where insulating spray foam has been applied: lots and lots of foam. There were areas above some of the existing walls which Foote said originally had little to no insulation. It is obvious that all the upgrades to the heating and cooling equipment, coupled with the addition of vestibule airlock entries and the intensely efficient insulation being applied will result in substantial operational savings for the district.
It is worth noting that all this work was being done under lights powered by a generator, as all power to the building had been cut off for the construction.
A new exterior block room adjacent to the gym is being constructed to house water flow control.
Due to a lack of electrical service to the gym, Foote was unable to show off the work which has been completed in t here. He said the gym work was largely completed, with painting having been done – not to fear, the Hornet mural remains intact and may see some professional fine-tuning in the future to ensure its longevity. Foote said the gym floor will be getting sanded shortly and will get sealed in August.
The project also brings to an end more than 40 years of locker pits; the pits have been filled in and lockers will be moved to walls, opening up spaces both visually and physically.
Foote said the kitchen area has doubled in size, and that additional pantry space off the hall outside the kitchen will provide ample, convenient storage where deliveries can be received without entry into the kitchen.
Lots of work is also being done in the classroom areas on the end of the building as well. The high school music room is being refurbished and will be brought back into use [students had been going to the middle school music room]. And a huge safety issue has been addressed in the art room: a block wall kiln room has been constructed which has the potential to house two kilns. The art room also will be a larger, non-partitioned space where thoughts and ideas can float freely, ready to take root in creative minds.
One of the most dramatic changes has to be the re-imagined auditorium space. What had been an open area in front of a stage has become an enclosed room with slant theater seating for 439 people. The upholstered flip-up seats are already on the premises ready to be placed as soon as all painting and wiring is complete. The room is wired, and dozens of drop wires are in place to accommodate directional lighting, and balanced sound. The stage will need to be sanded and sealed, but when the seats get installed and the curtains hung, this new auditorium will have all the trappings of an Off-Broadway venue.
The accompanying photos only hint at all the work which has been done at the schools, but Foote said he would likely invite the Cleaver back for another look in a couple weeks or so. That’s the way it is with projects of such magnitude. There is great upheaval, but once things start being put back together, change comes in leaps and bounds.