Denfeld News

Jan. 28, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Duluth school district reworks construction schedule
By Sarah Horner

Construction on the long-range facilities plan has been bumped up and pushed back, depending on the project.

The Duluth school district released a new construction schedule this week that details the latest start and wrap dates for all projects in the long-range facilities plan. Work on several of the schools has been moved up, which in turn has pushed other projects back.

The changes are largely due to earlier than expected progress on the design phase of certain schools, said Duluth Superintendent Keith Dixon. Construction at Denfeld High School, for example, originally was supposed to begin in 2010, but the new schedule shows work starting at the school this spring.

“Our schematic designs have just been moving along really nicely for that school, and the project is getting pretty well ready to go,” Dixon said. He added that the district was keen to bid a project of that size sooner rather than later because of the potentially competitive bidding climate created by the economic downturn.

The Homecroft Elementary, Laura MacArthur Elementary and Lester Park/Rockridge Elementary projects also have been moved up, in some cases by as much as a year.

The consequence of pulling some projects up meant the district had to push others back to balance the workload for local contractors, said Kevin Strong, program manager for Johnson Controls.

“If we can sequence all the various phases of this work out, we’ll be better able to achieve maximum local contractor participation,” Strong said.

Don O’Connor, executive director of the Duluth Builder’s Exchange, said that gesture probably would be appreciated by the local construction industry.

“When you double the amount of work in an area, it’s quite an impact on the construction industry, so certainly spreading it out is a good way to go,” he said.

Work has been pushed back more than a year on Grant/Nettleton Elementary and Lowell/Piedmont Elementary and a few months off for the eastern high school and both the western and eastern middle schools.

It is still unclear what the changes will mean for students, Dixon said. The district is waiting to settle on a boundary before deciding where to move students during construction at each site. The new schedule, however, should limit the number of moves to three as opposed to four in the first schedule.

The recent announcement of the potential early closings of Ordean Middle School and Piedmont Elementary was a budget savings decision and has nothing to do with the new construction schedule.

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