DRACUT -- Not only is 100 percent of Dracut High now under construction, but the district's teachers, custodians and administrative staff are contributing a 100 percent effort to ensure the first phase of the $60 million transformation and renovation project is finished before the start of the 2013-14 school year Sept. 5, School Buildings and Grounds Manager Andy Graham reported to the School Committee.
According to Graham, the moment school closed for the year June 26, Dracut teachers, administrative staff, department heads and custodians worked days, nights and weekends, and used more than 2,000 boxes and storage crates to pack everything from library and text books, biology and chemistry-lab storage items, to permanent school records dating back 56 years to when the Greenmont Avenue School was used the high school.
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"(Dracut High Librarian) Roberta Otremba basically packed up the entire library, which was a phenomenal job that she had before her," said Graham. "It was a team effort. Although there was still a tremendous amount of (construction) work ahead of us, really everybody pitched in and did just a great job with the move."
Moving the items into storage was essential to the project strategy of CTA turning over "Academic Wing B" to the School Department by Aug. 26, Graham said.
"B Wing is the area that we're going to maintain for classrooms next year and right now that is completely loaded with furniture, textbooks, library books, cafeteria tables, computers and other items that are going into the new academic wing as soon as it is turned over to the School Department -- which, as scheduled, would be Aug. 26," Graham said.
"I am pushing and hoping and working with the construction company to do everything we can to get that date (moved to) a little bit earlier, hopefully, by Aug. 15, which would give us more time to be able to move in to the temporary space that we need to set up, including a temporary library, and temporary cafeteria," added Graham. "It's all got to be done in such a small window of time."
When CTA turns over B Wing on Aug. 15 or Aug. 26, or somewhere in between, the same Dracut School District personnel will be called upon to move and unpack many of those same 2,000 boxes and crates they packed up June 26, Graham said.
The next and final major move after that will be in February.
"In February, we complete the second phase of construction, which would be getting Academic A Wing turned over to us, with the new cafeteria and library," Graham said. "February is another big move for us."
At the project's groundbreaking last September, Dracut School District and construction-company officials set a targeted completion date of September 2014. Graham reported last week the project is progressing rapidly, and may be a bit ahead of schedule.
"The new wing looks terrific. It's really beginning to take its personality. The flooring, ceilings and lockers are in, and tile work is completed. The biology labs, bathrooms, gymnasium, locker rooms -- it's all starting to come together," Graham reported. "The library is being opened up, and will become the administrative and guidance wing. What used to be the old wood shop is now going to be a robotics area and technology lab.
"It's almost unbelievable to see (the transformation), and it's exciting. Every day there's an awful lot happening, and it's really gone as smoothly as anyone could expect," added Graham.
As most passers-by on Lakeview Avenue have certainly noticed, the high school's former front entrance and main parking lot to its right have become unrecognizable, and are now part of a fenced-in construction site, noted Graham.
The demolition of the high school's auditorium, site of many Town Meetings and Dracut Scholarship Foundation Telethons past, was scheduled to happen this week.
"We did try to remove and save as many items as we could that I felt were in good condition," Graham said. "For instance, we'd just placed a new water heater into the high school after the old ones failed, and we were able to take them out and they'll be installed shortly at the Campbell School where there's an immediate need. Trophy cases were relocated to the Englesby and Brookside schools."
School Committee member Joe Wilkie commended Graham for salvaging and repurposing whatever equipment and furniture he could to improve other schools in the district.
"It's been exciting to see the fence go up around the building, and have people in town realize this is really happening," said Wilkie.
Graham pledged to continue providing Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone and Permanent Building Committee members with frequent construction updates.
As a side note to Graham's report, Stone spoke of a significant "non-construction" item the district is purchasing in conjunction with the high-school renovation.
"It's a very expensive 3-D printer for the engineering program," Stone said. "It's a very exciting piece of equipment that uses thermoplastics to make three-dimensional models. It was something everyone wanted to see as part of the new course of study in the robotics and engineering program at the new high school -- so we took the leap."
A price comparison of such premium 3-D printers online found they retail in the range of $3,000 to $4,000.
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