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Work progresses on Willmar’s school projects

Contractors are making good progress on science classroom additions at Willmar Middle School. The additions are expected to be complete in December. (RAND MIDDLETON | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR — Work on Willmar’s new elementary school may start later than usual, due to delays in receiving construction drawings from the architect.

However, classrooms and much of the rest of the building are still expected to be ready for the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

The Willmar School Board received an update on the building projects at its meeting this week.

Planning for the projects started in June 2015, a month after the school district’s voters approved a $52.35 million bonding program for facilities improvements. The most visible portion of the district-wide building program at this point is probably the additions at Willmar Middle School.

Starting next week and continuing for more than a year, the public will be able to watch the development of the new elementary school in southeast Willmar. A groundbreaking was held Monday, and contractor Quam Construction of Willmar plans to start site preparation work early next week.

Project manager Stephen Plantenberg of R.A. Morton Construction Managers said the classroom wing of the new elementary school is expected to be finished by Aug. 1, 2017.

However, because of delays in receiving construction drawings from ARY Architects, the gymnasium and activity classrooms of the building are expected to be finished later than originally planned.

“We’re confident we can finish and allow teachers to move in a month ahead (of school starting),” he said. “We will have to be very aggressive to meet the timeline.”

The original plan estimated that most of the building would be finished by Aug. 1, 2017. However, the activities and food service areas are now expected to be completed by Aug. 23, 2017, which would still be before school starts. Work on the gymnasium could continue into early October.

Plantenberg said the delays could increase costs if more of the construction needs to be done in winter.

So far budgeting is going well, with the $959,920 contract for site preparation about 16 percent less than preliminary estimates, according to a construction update provided by R.A. Morton.

Plantenberg said he is happy with the progress at the Middle School, which started construction first.

Two four-classroom science additions are under construction at the Middle School. A sprinkler system and other fire protection will be installed throughout the school this summer, and the cafeteria will be expanded.

Plantenberg said he expects contractors to be able to have the fire suppression system and the cafeteria finished by the time students return to school in the fall.

The science classrooms are scheduled to be finished in early 2017.

“We’re very happy with the progress we’re seeing with the north and west science additions,” Plantenberg said. Color selections for the interior will be done in the next few weeks, he added.

Bids on a gymnasium addition at Willmar Senior High are expected to be opened in September, with work starting in October. The work includes a gymnasium, gymnastics gym and an expansion of the fitness center at the school.

“We hope we can break ground and do underground work before freeze-up,” Plantenberg said.

That project is expected to be finished in August 2017, as well.

The building program includes about $9 million in maintenance projects throughout the district and remodeling in the two existing elementary schools. Some of the maintenance work will be done this summer and the rest in summer 2017.

Elementary school remodeling to update learning spaces will be planned during the next school year and completed in summer 2017.


Willmar School Board balances budget for the first time in years

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340