By Dedra Cordle
In 2018, voters laid the foundation for the South-Western City Schools District to replace four of its oldest middle schools and make renovations to another by approving a 38-year, $93.4 million bond issue to pay for its share of the second phase of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project. Now, that foundation was that laid figuratively nearly three years ago is being laid literally.
At its meeting on March 22, the board of education was presented with an update on the progress of the $193 million project by a representative overseeing the construction at all of the sites. According to the official, they are no longer just “pushing around dirt.”
“We are under construction at all four of the sites,” said Michael Dingeldein, the director of architecture and planning with the Community Design Alliance.
While each site has been making headway, he said the construction management has been “a little more” focused on the build project at Norton and Finland Middle Schools as they have a less flexible schedule related to the projected fall of 2022 reopening date.
“They’re the ones that have to be finished in time to make the transition with the demolition of the two existing buildings,” he said.
The Norton Middle School site is considered to be “the tightest” of all four locations, he said.
“We are building right between an active Prairie Norton and an active Norton Middle School,” he said, “but we’re doing very well.”
The slabs have already been laid at all four of the sites, with precast wall panels currently being erected at this location and masonry work underway.
The construction at Finland Middle is in “about the same position as Norton is.”
“Things are going very quickly,” he said, “and we’re making good progress.”
He added that construction has not been impacted even though they are working within three “active” school sites.
Due to Norton Middle’s proximity to Prairie Norton Elementary and Finland Middle’s proximity to Finland Elementary and Franklin Woods Intermediate, the parking lot area will be expanded at these locations to allow teachers, staff, and buses to share existing space.
Pleasant View Middle School, which will be relocated from its existing location on Kropp Road to Holt Road, is a site that has posed a challenge to the construction managers despite it being deemed a site that is “easier to operate.”
“We have more to control,” he said, referring to the neighboring development. “We have more dirt to disturb, more water, more storm runoff.”
He said that issue has been mitigated by creating storm control and water control around the perimeter of the entire site,” said Dingeldein.
Runoff issues have also posed a challenge at the new location for Brookpark Middle School, which is being relocated to the Beulah Park development.
“It was one of the sites I was most concerned about because of runoff,” said Dingeldein. “We have lots of residential neighbors, we have lots of new construction to the north of us in Beulah Park.”
In order to mitigate that challenge, he said Ruscilli Construction developed a 200-foot box culvert that spans the area that accesses the football field.
Despite some runoff issues and the unpredictable Ohio winters, Dingeldein said that the construction progress is overall “going well.”
“Everything is working well, it’s on time, and I’m pleased with the construction operation.”
The exterior construction will continue throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise said that, if all goes according to plan, they will be working on the interior of the buildings by winter of 2021.
All of the new middle schools are slated to open by the start of the 2022-23 school year.